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Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones): A regulated industry with 81 million connected devices in 2033

  • Internet of Things
  • IoT
  • Hyperconnectivity
  • Aerial vehicles
  • Aviation Authority
  • Drones
  • UAVs
  • Underwater vehicles
  • UUVs
  • Nikita Singh
  • Matt Arnott
This Report summarises the status and forecasts from the Unmanned Aquatic and Aerial Vehicles (Drones) Application Group found in the Transforma Insights Connected Things (IoT) forecast. The report provides a description of what is covered in the Application Group, as well as top-level figures from the forecast that provide detail on how many connected devices will be installed, the types of communication technology used and the total revenue opportunity. Full details are accessible through the TAM Forecast tool.

Report summary

This report provides Transforma Insights’ view on the Unmanned Aquatic and Aerial Vehicles (Drones) market. This segment comprises multiple sub-applications: Very Small UAVs, Small UAVs, Medium UAVs, Large UAVs, Unmanned Surface Vehicles, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles.

UAVs have gained prominence not only among consumers but also across multiple industries (such as mining, oil and gas, and agriculture) and the security sector (including police departments, armed forces, and security services). Leading use cases include aerial photography and videography, terrestrial mapping, delivering parcels, light shows, and warfare. The use of these drones primarily depends on their physical features such as size, weight, length of blades, and distance they can travel. For instance, small UAVs are mostly preferred for short distances and consumer-centric activities such as amateur photography and videography. Medium and large UAVs are used primarily for commercial and military activities.

Regulations play a pivotal role in the drone industry. Each country has its own rules, based on the size, weight, type, and functions of a drone. Countries such as China and the US have specific drone laws for some of their cities. For instance, China does not allow either consumer or commercial drones in Beijing. Large international manufacturers such as DJI, Parrot, and Delair are therefore beholden to selling drones which comply with a multitude of government-directed rulesets.

The report provides a detailed definition of the sector, analysis of market development and profiles of the key vendors in the space. It also provides a summary of the current status of adoption and Transforma Insights’ ten-year forecasts for the market. The forecasts include analysis of the number of IoT connections by geography, the technologies used and revenue.

A full set of forecast data, including country-level forecasts, sector break-downs and public/private network splits, is available through the IoT Forecast tool.

Key market developments in the Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones) Application Group

Drones landing page.jpg

This section of the report begins with the drivers leading to increasing investment and development of drones and then talks about DJI (which dominates around 3/4th of the total market), Yuneec, and Sensefly, the major vendors of the drone market. It then talks about the current and the future market potential for drones across various geographies including North America, Asia, and Europe, and in a tabular format, it lists the number of registered drones across specific countries, like 871,000 in the US (as of January 2023) and 320,000 in Japan (by November 2022).

It then talks about the regulatory environments of UAVs, which depend on factors like size, weight, areas of operation, BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) control, and drone features (such as built-in GPS and cameras). In a tabular format, it also talks about the UAV regulations across major geographies, like the US, the UK, France, China, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

The market development section has been further categorised into the following sections and subsections:


This section of the report expounds upon governments’ use of drones for civilian and military purposes, mostly for monitoring and inspection activities.

Drones used for civilian activities.

This subsection first talks about the use of drones in the government vertical, like providing real-time aerial data for crowd monitoring and surveillance. It also explains how these drones are more efficient, cheaper (in some cases), and easier to deploy, when compared to police helicopters, officers, and CCTV cameras. It also talks about how drones are used by the well-armed segments of the police force (like border patrol departments) to monitor sensitive areas like international borders.

Drones used for military activities

This subsection talks about the various uses of drones in military activities, like collecting intelligence data and conducting reconnaissance. It then discusses the benefits of adopting drones for military activities, like reducing equipment spend and limiting the risk for aircrews. Then, it talks about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a major driver behind the rapid expansion of the use of drones. It also describes how recent conflicts have resulted in smaller consumer and commercial drones being used for both weapons platforms and reconnaissance.

It also discusses the growing usage of longer-range, purpose-built drones with integrated warheads, since the weapons systems used to intercept them often cost more, resulting in militaries around the world, like that of the US, trying to deploy and develop new countermeasures, like more efficient jamming solutions.

Drones used for military underwater activities (underwater vehicles - UUVs)

This subsection traces the developmental journey of UUVs and talks about how they are now used for multiple roles, including being weapon platforms capable of launching nuclear weapons. It also talks about countries like the UK, the US, China, and France, that are manufacturing and using UUVs for oceanic warfare. It also provides a few examples of relevant IoT deployments in this application, like the South Jordan Police Department using Autel Dragonfish drones to revolutionise law enforcement and the École d'Application de Sécurite Civile (EcASC) using drones to support search and rescue.


This section claims that in the administrative sector, drones are primarily used for private security services, like monitoring outdoor events, which in turn, prevents unauthorised access and reduces theft and loss of materials. It also talks about new administrative use cases for drones, owing to the increasing number of gunfire incidents in schools and universities.

It also provides an example of relevant IoT deployment in this application, like G4S using drones for patrolling and video analytics for a manufacturing company in Brazil.


In this section, the focus in primarily on farming and forestry and fishing.


This subsection focuses on the various uses of drones in farming (including crop monitoring and fertiliser and chemical spraying) and the benefits for farmers, like higher productivity and less labour. For instance, it is estimated that in India, drone-led farming can reduce input costs by 18-20% while enhancing yield by 30-100%. It also expounds upon the forms and features of the drones used in agriculture. For instance, drones with thermal cameras can identify irrigation issues, or areas receiving little or too much moisture. It also talks about the challenges associated with these drones. For instance, these drones can cost between USD10,000-USD20,000, making them difficult for farmers with smaller budgets to own.

Forestry and fishing

This section first explains how rotary-wing drones help in mapping forests and how the collected data is used for various purposes, such as fire detection and encroachment detection. It also talks about the drawback associated with this method – lack of cellular network coverage.

It then discusses the use of drones in the fishing industry, like monitoring fish-rearing tanks and enclosures. It also mentions the special features that fishing drones will have, like integrated flotation devices, and the ability to use or deploy sonar equipment.

It also talks about a few examples of relevant IoT deployments in this application, like HMC Farms partnering with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to use drones for harvesting.

Arts & Entertainment

This section explains how UAVs are being increasingly adopted in the Arts and Entertainment sector. It claims that drones can cost-effectively capture images and videos from a distant altitude and have started replacing costly equipment like jibs. It then goes for a comparative cost analysis between drones and traditional methods. For instance, a single helicopter costs between USD20,000-40,000 for 10 hours/day and it has additional costs of pilots, crew members, equipment, and insurance that range between USD8,000-10,000 per helicopter. On the other hand, UAVs and a camera crew cost around USD5,000 per day and can give better shots. It also claims that the low cost of ownership for drones implies that various smaller videographers and content creators can now purchase these drones, and adds that professional video hexacopters (which cost more than quadcopters and have more stability and payload capacity) are being increasingly used for shooting action scenes, sports sequences, and news.

It also discusses drones being used in light shows and projections, talks about the features of those drones, the cost of running a show that involves these drones and explains how these light shows have replaced firework displays. This section also provides a few examples of relevant IoT deployments in this application, like Disney using Intel’s Falcon 8 drones for its light show at Disney World in Florida.

Transportation & Storage

This section focuses on the use of drones in supply chains, especially in last mile delivery. It mentions the companies using drones to deliver goods including Amazon, Google, Walmart, and UPS, although many of them are in trial phases and are operating across limited geographies. It also mentions that currently, most delivery drones are used to deliver food products, convenience items, and medical supplies.

It then talks about the advantages of using drones in transportation (such as enhanced functions like GPS mapping, sustainability, and improved service time), the features of these drones, and the connectivity technologies used to support them. It also talks about the challenges of delivery drones, including limited payload capacity and range, and adverse weather conditions. It also talks about drones being used for inventory management operations in warehouses and the benefits. For instance, in warehouses, drones can be deployed for inventory counting and auditing, thereby reducing error rates and saving time and labour.

This section also provides a few examples of relevant IoT deployments in this application, like Manna using delivery drones for delivering coffee, takeaways, and books.


This section first describes what consumer drones are, and then talks about the most common types of consumer drones - multi-rotor, fixed-wing, and toy drones. It then talks about the features of lightweight consumer drones (like a top speed of 30 mph and a maximum altitude of 400 feet above the ground). It also talks about underwater drones, their features, types (tethered or wireless), and their uses.

It also explains why the market for these drones remains niche, with limited consumer appeal. This section discusses a few examples of relevant IoT devices in this application, including the DJI Mavic 3 Pro and the DJI Mini 3 Pro.


This section discusses the features of small UAVs (like lidar sensors and thermal and visual cameras) and their uses (like aerial photography). It then charts how drones are used in the mining industry (to create 3D models of the earth) and in the oil and gas industry (for gas leak detection in pipelines).

It also talks about a few examples of relevant IoT deployments in this application, including Delta Companies using drone technology for mine planning and inventory management.

Key vendors for Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones) Application Group

The key vendors section lists some of the main providers of products and services related to the market, such as Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), Parrot, Yuneec International, Autel Robotics, AeroVironment, and Skydio. The report provides profiles of the various vendors including aspects most relevant to this Application Group, such as product offerings, pricing, financial results, and technology.

Market forecasts for Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones) Application Group

In the market forecasts section, we provide a summary of the forecasts from the Transforma Insights IoT Forecast Database:


The report charts the growth in the number of devices, which will grow from 17.5 million in 2023 to 80.5 million in 2033.

Transforma Insights forecasts are compiled on a country-by-country basis. This report includes a regional summary, showing splits between Australasia, Greater China, North America, Europe, Japan, Latin America, MENA, Russia & Central Asia, South East Asia, South Korea, India & South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Transforma Insights’ IoT forecasts include splits between the various connectivity technologies as follows: 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G mMTC, 5G non-mMTC, LPWA (non-mMTC), Satellite, Short Range, and Other.

This section discusses which technologies will be used in the Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones) application group.


This part of the report discusses the market growth in terms of revenue (module revenue, service wrap revenue, and VAC revenue). Transforma Insights estimates that the revenue in the Unmanned Aquatic & Aerial Vehicles (Drones) Application Group will grow at a CAGR of 33%.

  • DJI
  • Aerial SAMS
  • Aerodyne
  • Aerovironment
  • Autel Robotics
  • Axon
  • Azur
  • Bacchus
  • BHP
  • Bowles Farming Company
  • Cyberhawk
  • Delair
  • Delta Companies
  • Disney World Park
  • Dream Hammer
  • Farmshots
  • G4S
  • HMC Farms
  • Kespry
  • Manna
  • Measure
  • Parrot
  • Picterra
  • Pivotal Films
  • Robotnik
  • Sensefly
  • Shell
  • Skydio
  • Tevel Aerobotics Technologies
  • Trimble
  • Wingcopter
  • Yuneec
  • Zipline
  • Internet of Things
  • Hyperconnectivity
  • Autonomous Robotic Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence
    • Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
    • Administrative
    • Arts & Entertainment
    • Government
    • Transportation & Storage
    • Consumer