As drones make asset inspection cheaper, faster and safer, utilities and other large asset operators are likely to play a key role in the development of the technology.
The FAA forecasts the number of commercial drones in the US will more than quadruple in the next four years, from 110,606 in 2017 to 451,800 by 2022.
Addressing public perceptions
According to McKinsey, public acceptance is the most vital factor that will influence the future of drone technology.
“Society forms their opinions around technologies quite quickly," Huerta says, noting some of the privacy concerns that have been associated with drones.
According to Bloomberg, there were 4.5 million drones in active use around the world in 2015, compared with about 320,000 planes.
While the majority of drone users are well intentioned, such as real estate agents, news organisations and photographers seeking an aerial view, the absence of a simple identification process for drones could slow the technology's progress.
“Regulators don't sit in a windowless room," Huerta says. “They respond to societal pressure. So we'll need to wait and see how people react to ongoing developments."
Companies that refine their products, educate the population about the benefits of drones to society as a public health service and public safety service, and establish responsible data policies, are more likely to succeed.