Industry leaders predict drone development acceleration

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Commercial drone deliveries will be commonplace by 2023, according to a new study.

The Horizon Shift report by Protolabs involved 325 aerospace business leaders from across Europe and highlighted an increased acceptance for low space innovation and investment into testing robots and drones. Of the companies in the survey, 53% said commercial drone deliveries will be commonplace by 2023.

In the UK, 78% felt convinced that disruption in the form of drones represents the sector’s best opportunity for growth in the future. This compared with 75% in Italy, 64% in France and 57% in Germany.

Bjoern Klaas, vice president and managing director of Protolabs Europe, said that while COVID-19 has significantly affected aerospace, the crisis could be a catalyst for further innovation, forcing organizations to look at ways to survive.

“A crisis can act as a catalyst for further innovation, forcing organizations to seek alternative ways to survive in rapidly changing times,” he said.

“Our report shows that right now within aerospace, the ‘low space’ sector is demonstrating agility in its approach to innovation and there is a real appetite to see it work in the UK.”

There are obstacles to overcome including costs, integrating technology and inflexible supply chains. Testing programs and product development cycles are the main barrier to innovation while risk management and an inability to learn from failures could stifle progress.

Protolabs’ report was completed in March and April and involved aerospace professionals working across senior management, R&D, engineering design, technology and supply chain management.

Klaas said, “There are real opportunities for suppliers to look at ways they can deliver parts that can be used in this transition, while exploring material applications that deliver the lightweight savings and optimum performance required.”

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