2018 – Some predictions!

January 15, 2018 2:09 pm Published by

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I know right, you hate reading these rambling posts.  However I think I’m well placed to make some predictions for this year and it’s always fun to see whether your right or wrong at year end.  It also follows that this is a key part of my role within ROAVR as it lets us best plan ahead.

So, lets take a look a a few points.

Platforms – did you read my post last year on the prosumer DJI Inspire 1 (i1) and how it is still valid?  Well I predict in 2018 this won’t be the case anymore.  Certainly not for media work anyway unless it is in house content production using your own equipment.  Drone service providers are jumping in their 100’s to the Inspire 2 (i2).  Why?  Mostly because DJI are withdrawing support.  The deliverables are generally no better than the i1 unless you are shooting in Cinema DNG or ProRes but it’s time to move on.  This really is disruptive technology!

For inspection, survey and mapping work the i1 will still produce the goods and remain valid well into Q3 but getting spares and new batteries is going to become difficult.  The second hand market is awash with bargains at the moment as operators offload i1 equipment but that will not last.

I predict that the cost of replacing the i1 with an i2 may push many small companies out of business.  We know from our own experience that a direct replacement outfit is around 9,000 GBP with X7 and lenses your pushing 15-16,000 GBP.

ROAVR still operate two i1’s and have planned to keep them operational until Q3 2018 when they will move backwards to training.

Inveraray Castle

The X7 – the X7 camera system from DJI is simply fantastic and for higher end operators doing commercials, drama, features and net based content like The Grand Tour this will become the platform of choice.  For most others it is an unnecessary expense but will be used as a tool to push out operators on some TV work.  I have no doubt of this as the similar was true when the Inspire 2 arrived.  ROAVR used an i2 extensively for high end work in 2017.

I also predict the decline in heavy lift operators will continue leaving only the cream at the top, maybe 10-15 companies in the UK carrying out these operations with any consistency.  Our own SkyJib is going out less and less as Directors expect the manoeuvrability of an Inspire and the Quality of an Arri Mini.  The Inspire 2 with the X7 fits here nicely.

NQE’s – National Qualified Entities are approved by the CAA to conduct competency training.  There is around 25 NQE’s now as opposed to two 4-years ago.  I predict this has hit the ceiling now and that there simply are not the students to sustain these businesses.  I would imagine we can expect to see ‘elite’ training organisations emerge that go far beyond the base level required by the CAA and many more will drop by the wayside or even move their portfolios into other related fields.

Consolidation will contine in the drone service industry sector.  The cat is out of the bag.  To much over promising and under delivery has lead to many enterprise clients that were once the target for drone companies taking the capability in-house.  This of course has it’s own challenges but we will see some drone companies culled in the short-term.  If you haven’t found your niche yet, it may be too late.

Small groups of highly skilled operators are forming together and pooling equipment and skills to deliver outstanding service delivery to their clients.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in media where the top companies can be named on one hand and in many cases the companies are individuals.  I am lucky to call many of these friends.

Pessimistic  – no, not at all.  At ROAVR we are aggressively expanding.  Our level of repeat business is excellent and we have several niches that allow us to merge several skill sets.  Within one office we have two professional photographers, an aerial coordinator, an environmental consultant and a structural surveyor.

Choose your equipment wisely.  A drone is merely a tool.  No-one pays us to fly drones.  What will best serve your clients in 2018?  I am looking at our 4-year old Aeronavics XMX4 on the workbench which is still valid and can do many tasks an Inspire 2 can not.

Happy New Year one and all!

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