Privacy concerns despite opportunities of drone technology

07 February, 2019

The majority of Irish business leaders and consumers believe the public have a negative perception of drones, according to research carried out by students of the MSc in Management Consulting at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School on behalf of PwC.

However, the survey indicates that business leaders and consumers are more comfortable with drones being used if they know the purpose for their use. Nearly three-quarters (73%) who voiced concerns about drones said that they would be significantly more comfortable if they knew who was operating the drone.

Man operating a drone by remote control.

The research confirms that the perceived uneasiness around drone technology could be challenged if the public was better informed. The lack of knowledge around drones is not only evident in a public audience, but also by companies currently utilising drone technology. For example, over half (58%) of business leaders who have previously used drones believed that they lack drone knowledge. The survey suggests that companies using drone technology should place greater emphasis on educating their workforce and, significant effort must be made to increase and improve the information available to the public regarding such technology. Over 80% of respondents cited privacy as their main concern around the use of drones – indicating that a level of trust and transparency must be established for their use.

Drones are explicitly called out by PwC as one of the “Essential Eight” technologies that matter most for business, across every industry, over the next three to five years. PwC estimates global market in drone-powered solutions for the power and utilities industry is worth US$9.46 billion a year. The Essential Eight are the technology building blocks that we believe every organization must consider.

To increase knowledge of drones, it must first be recognised that that drones are simply a platform and that the real value comes from the associated insights which can be gleaned from the analysis of large data sets provided by this platform. Companies have bespoke requirements for drone-powered solutions, according to the drone Centre of Excellence, PwC Poland. However, at present, the technology has not yet been developed to meet these exact specifications.

Suitable technology solutions remain the number one priority when looking for a service provider, with 57% of companies outsourcing drone operations to an external provider. High-quality providers allow for easier navigation of industry regulation, compensate for lack of in-house expertise, and address liability concerns. The quality and number of service providers is important for the commercial application.

Kathleen O’Reilly, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, said: "Drones present enormous potential to enrich the power of data analytics and the Internet of Things. It is well recognised that drones are the platform while the real value comes from the attached technologies and their insights. However, caution needs to be exercised over privacy and safety concerns. The survey suggests more awareness and education is needed around drone technology which would likely ease the pressures around their use.”    

Ronan Fitzpatrick, Digital Director, PwC Ireland said: “We are seeing drone platforms in use in diverse industries such as energy, agriculture, infrastructure and construction.  PwC has estimated that that the global market in drone-powered solutions for the power and utilities industry is worth US$9.46 billion a year. For example, the power and utilities sector faces numerous new challenges as it stands on the threshold of a digital revolution. Pressure to shift to renewables from fossil fuels, while reducing prices, is forcing companies to look for new ways to stay profitable.

“As companies reinvent their business models, drones are helping increase the reliability of energy production, transmission and distribution. The true power of drones comes from the rapid data collection capabilities, combined with sensors and Artificial Intelligence, in a device which can be controlled remotely or flown automatically. Whilst the use of the data may vary by industry, drones can provide an increasingly feasible and accelerated means of gathering that data.”

ENDS

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