These 11 Companies Are Betting On The Drone Revolution
The drone industry has taken off this year as new regulations have drawn attention to the public's growing interest in unmanned aircraft. However it isn't just private enthusiasts who make up the drone industry's fan base; big name firms are also looking in to using the devices to do everything from land surveys to deliveries.
While the Federal Aviation Administration's strict rules regarding drone flights have weighed on innovation within the sector, many believe that in time the rules will evolve and drones will eventually become a much larger part of everyday life. That's why for many firms, the development of drones represents a big part of their future strategy. Here's a look at 11 firms that are betting on drones for their future.
1. GoPro Inc. (NASDAQ: GPRO)
GoPro made its name with compact high definition video cameras often used by athletes and adrenaline junkies to capture their exploits. The firm is hoping to take its camera capabilities even further by using a new drone dubbed the "quadcopter".
GoPro is planning to launch the quadcopter in early 2016 and the firm released footage of the device at the end of October to build hype. The drone will be capable of taking HD video from above, something the company hopes will appeal to the sportsmen who already use its cameras. However, some are worried that GoPro's drone release will fall flat as most competitor products similarly use GoPro cameras to capture ariel footage.
2. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN)
It's difficult to discuss the drone industry without mentioning Amazon. The company has been working to develop package delivery drones since the unmanned aircraft first became a viable possibility. As much of the e-commerce giant's success depends on fast, cheap delivery options, the firm is always willing to test out new ways to get packages to consumers.
Drone delivery systems would likely cut down on customer wait times while also trimming Amazon's delivery costs as it would no longer need to use shipping companies like FedEx or UPS to make deliveries within certain cities. While the idea may be a novel one, Amazon will have to wait until the FAA relaxes its drone regulations to use delivery drones as current rules prohibit the aircraft from flying outside of the line of sight of the operator.
3. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Not to be outdone by rival Amazon, Wal-Mart is working on its own version of a delivery drone as well. The discount retailer asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones in October, suggesting that the firm is looking to use the planes in the future to speed up delivery times.
Wal-Mart is also hoping that drones will help with inventory management. Introducing drones to Wal-Mart's supply chain could be a good way for the firm to improve its online offerings, a major aspect of the firm's future strategy. For years Wal-Mart has been losing customers to online shopping, but by expanding its offerings on the web and possibly cutting costs with drones, the company may be able to regain its place at the top of discount retail.
4. Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG)
Google parent Alphabet is another firm that has diversified its investments to include drones. While the unmanned aircraft are not a part of the company's core operations, the tech giant has made a series of acquisitions that suggest Google wants to be a player in the industry should it continue to grow.
In addition to other robotics firms, Google acquired drone-maker Titan Aerospace in 2014. Titan's drones, which are able to fly as high as 65,000 feet and can stay in the air for up to three years, are expected to become a part of Google's "Project Loon," an initiative to beam internet connections to remote, disconnected places around the world.
5. AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV)
AeroVironment has perhaps the biggest stake in the drone industry as much of the firm's revenue comes from selling drones. AeroVironment designs and manufactures drones and holds several contracts with the Department of Defense which uses the unmanned aircraft for everything from surveillance to military warfare.
However the drone company is also working to expand its drone offerings in the private sector as well, especially as commercial drone sales continue to grow. AeroVironment has been working together with energy firms like BP to create drones that survey oil pipelines and inspect operations that are difficult to get to.
6. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT)
Drones are an extremely important asset when it comes to defense, so government contractors like Lockheed Martin have been quick to invest in developing the latest and greatest drone offerings. The military uses for drones have continued to expand over the past few years as the Department of Defense finds new ways to gather intelligence and protect soldiers using the unmanned aircraft.
Lockheed's drones are already being used by the military for things like surveillance and cargo flights, but as more uses become apparent, Lockheed is likely to continue developing aircraft that fit those needs.
7. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC)
Much like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman fulfills the need for drones in the defense sector. Northrop Grumman made its name in the military drone space when it created the Global Hawk, a drone that is able to provide a visual on activity from an altitude greater than 60,000 feet. The drone was bought by the US military not long after the 9/11 attacks, and Northrop Grumman has since developed a variety of unmanned aircraft to fill several roles within the US military.
8. NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA)
NVDIA is a visual computing firm that develops processors for everything from automobiles to video games. The company's Tegra processor was initially developed to run mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, but many believe the chips could be extremely useful to drone makers. Drone-maker Parrot used the firm's Tegra chip in a recent demonstration that showed how more powerful processors will revolutionize the drone industry.
At the moment, the firm's Tegra chips are in relatively low demand among smartphone makers, but their unmatched power could give them a leg up as drone designers search for processors capable of doing more.
9. InvenSense (NASDAQ: INVN)
Another firm that creates the technology that drones run on is InvenSense. The company creates the inner workings of motion tracking devices that have long been used in smartphones and watches. InvenSense sensors could also become a huge part of the drone market as more and more of the aircraft make their way to market.
The sensors have the potential to greatly increase the functionality of drones as they act as an accelerator, gyroscope and magnetometer. Many believe that InvenSense's strong position as a supplier to drone-makers means that the firm will benefit as the industry expands.
10. Ambarella (NASDAQ: AMBA)
Much like InvenSense, Ambarella is a tech firm whose offerings prove invaluable to drone makers. Ambarella makes the chips and software used to capture and transmit HD video. The firm's offerings also include audio and still image features. Ambarella's chips were initially developed for used in TV broadcasting and are still used that way today.
However, the chips eventually made their way to security cameras and are expected to make the next logical jump to drones as the industry continues to expand. As most drones use video recording in some capacity, many analysts believe that Ambarella is in a great position to make gains if the drone industry lives up to the hype in the coming years.
11. IXYS Corp (NASDAQ: IXYS)
Another firm that the drone industry will be depending on in the future is IXYS Corp. IXYS makes power controllers and chipsets that devices like robots and drones need in order to operate. Power efficiency is a huge concern for drone makers as their customers all want devices that can fly further for longer periods of time.
Generating power efficiently is an important part of keeping drone costs down, so IXYS products are a huge part of any drone company's design plans.
One of the things that will draw investors to IXYS is the fact that the firm's components are set to be used across every sector of the drone industry as aircraft being used for surveillance, recreation, exploration or delivery would all need efficient power controllers to ensure a lasting flight time.
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