When the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its Part 107 commercial drone guidelines in August, more than 3,000 people immediately signed up to take the test to become pilots.
Those were just the early adopters. Now UAVs are becoming a valuable tool across a wide variety of industries: construction, security, land conservation, archaeology, forensic investigation, and mapping are just a few examples. Accordingly, there are new apps that help businesses use drones as more than just flying cameras.
There are apps for flight planning, compliance, insurance, and even tree counting, but these apps have been offered in a fragmented way.
Now, DroneDeploy, a cloud-based software platform, has launched the first drone industry app store. The new DroneDeploy App Market allows users to download apps that become integrated with their DroneDeploy interface, which already includes eight million acres that have been mapped in 135 countries around the world.
This will be helpful for both end users and developers. Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy, tells ZDNet, "The app store is leveraging the database, leveraging the high-resolution data and exposing it to developers."
The app store launched on Friday with 19 apps, including: Verifly for on-demand drone insurance, AirMap to check flight plans for airspace safety, Box for file sharing, and apps for tracking and documenting flights. There are several agriculture apps that help farmers by counting crops and determining potential yield.
The underlying DroneDeploy platform, which already has more than 10,000 users, behaves like a computer's operating system, and apps are the various software tools that users download to accomplish specific tasks. While word processing and photo editing are standard tools on a laptop, insurance and compliance apps are essential for commercial drone operators.
Darr Gerscovich, DroneDeploy's SVP of Marketing, explains, "These are integrated apps, so instead of downloading and opening an individual app, when you download the app, installs itself within the drone deploy interface. When you're using that DroneDeploy interface with the downloaded app, it's actually changing your experience."
He gives a basic example of AirMap, a popular app that operators use to check for nearby flight advisories. Previously, users would open the app to check for flight safety, then they would open DroneDeploy to start flying. Now, as soon as users starts to plan flights with DroneDeploy, they will be notified whether the flight path is safe or restricted.
"The thing that we're hearing from customers is that there is a growing interest to leverage drones in industry, for businesses. But the challenge is that it's a fragmented space, and they're asking us to incorporate a seamless workflow. So by launching the App Market, we're taking a fragile ecosystem and bringing it together, so it's not only going to spur development, which will drive faster innovation, but the end users will also see increasingly more value."
Now that drones are affordable, easier to use, and not bogged down by strict FAA regulations, they are becoming tools for many industries. Drones can become a valuable tool for everything from building inspections, surveillance, land conservation, and delivery services, but widespread commercial adoption will require a plethora of apps designed to help solve business challenges.
"Regulations are not the blocking point anymore," says Winn. "The blocking points are building solutions for users."
In most cases, drones aren't the primary focus of a given job. Instead, they are tools that help people accomplish specific tasks for a project.
According to Winn, "On our platform, the majority of our users are actually not primarily drone operators. We have lots of those, too. But most people that are using a drone right now are actually using them like any other tool for their job."