The Italian drone business takes off, 145 million in revenues (+23%) in 2023

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They are mainly used for inspections and inspections (44%), transport of people (23%) and security and surveillance (20%). These are the most common professional applications of drones but there are also cinematographic shots and those of amateur videos. The business linked to drones and advanced air mobility systems is growing and in Italy it reaches 145 million with a +23% compared to 2022. A service business created by 664 companies because in the post-Covid period 42 companies ceased their activity. As regards the immediate future, the sentiment of entrepreneurs active in this sector is positive: as many as 81% expect strong market expansion in the next 3 years and the first data for 2024 confirm double-digit growth. These are the key data on the sector that emerge from the Drones and Advanced Air Mobility Observatory of the School of Management of the Polytechnic of Milan.

Worldwide, between 2019 and 2023, 1,471 drone application cases were recorded, +29% in the last year. Only 16%, however, is already operational, supporting or completely replacing the traditional carrying out of activities. 70% of the cases refer to the Aerial Operations segment (small and medium-sized drones operating in the more traditional sectors) and the remaining 30% Innovative Air Mobility & Delivery projects (larger drones for the transport of goods and people) like, for example, Amazon’s project for deliveries. Furthermore, worldwide there are 97 vertiport projects for the landing and take-off of VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft ed), even if only one in 3 is in the prototype, development or test phase (36%), 16 will become operational by 2024. In Italy, the full operation of the Rome vertiport and the construction of the Rome vertiport are expected by the end of the year. Venice. But all 15 Italian airports that responded to the Observatory’s survey are in favor of making their infrastructures and skills available for the construction of vertiports, with 33% already having some active projects and 13% will be activated within the next three years. «2023 was a year of big announcements, regulatory developments and new sector initiatives – explains Marco Lovera, Scientific Manager of the Drones and Advanced Air Mobility Observatory -. The world of drones and advanced air mobility is experiencing great excitement: the technology is mature, the EASA regulation is now fully applicable and the experts are ready to transform the experiments into operational services both in the more traditional sectors and in mobility and in transportation. The launch dates of the services are approaching: 2024 must be the year of concreteness and realization of the promises, the understandable hesitations must be addressed rationally, based on objective facts and involving all stakeholders”. The Observatory speaks of 480 eVtol (electric Vertical take-off and landing) aircraft projects worldwide, potentially available for the development of the Innovative Air mobility and delivery segment, with a growth of +530% compared to 2020. Of these, only 13% are in the production and sales phase while the majority are at prototype level (39%) or conceptual development (48%). According to the AAM Reality Index, the majority of these aircraft are expected to enter service from 2024.

So in Italy

In our country the professional drone market (B2b and B2g) is represented 97% by Aerial operations (Ao) and 3% by Innovative Air Mobility & Deliveries (IAM&D) services. Public demand represents only 8% of the overall value, despite the fact that 38% of supply companies have public bodies among their clients and 47% of Italian projects are carried out by public administrations. Aerial Operations are dominated by operators who account for 54% of the market value, represent 81% of the 652 companies active in this segment and deal mostly with surveys (67%), aerial photography (64%) and inspections (61%). According to 51% of market players, services could benefit from regulatory developments which continue to be the first obstacle to growth. During 2023, 23 operational authorizations were issued by ENAC in a specific category for Bvlos operations, (Beyond visual line of sight, all operations conducted at a distance that does not allow the remote pilot to remain in direct and constant visual contact) in slight decrease compared to the 27 in 2022. On the contrary, the Iam&d segment is characterized by platform manufacturers and companies manufacturing own-brand drones. These players represent 60% of the 32 active companies and garner 80% of the market value. This area, still emerging, has been catalyzing the interest of companies, bodies, institutions and public opinion for several years now. «2023 was a year of growth for the professional drone market in Italy – continues Paola Olivares, Director of the Drones and Advanced Air Mobility Observatory -. We recorded an increase in the Aerial operations segment and, for the first year, revenues also deriving from freight transport, although still of a very modest amount. However, 2023 also brought a further rationalization of the number of companies active in the sector which is focusing on the most structured and innovative companies.

39% of companies that have active projects are driven by improving the service offered to customers, 24% by the search for a competitive advantage over competitors, 19% by improving the company image. Transport of goods and people – Goods transport represents 77% of Innovative Air Mobility & Delivery projects and focuses on the delivery of general goods (54%) and medical supplies (46%). Only 7% of these projects are operational, mainly in remote or sparsely populated areas (e.g. on the African continent), confirming the poor maturity of the segment. Even more emerging is the sector of passenger transport, which represents 23% of cases. In 72% we are in the announcement phase. 2023 was, however, characterized by interesting developments on this front both at an international and Italian level. Several cities in the world, such as Singapore and New York, have given the green light to the trials and there is no shortage of Italian cases, with Rome and Milan in the front row for the introduction of passenger transport services in 2024 and 2026 respectively.

Then there are the more recreational aspects which represent 88% of the market with over 14 thousand registrations on the d-flight portal in 2023.

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