Across Latin America, the commercial drones market is an increasingly important contributor to economic development and is estimated to be worth over $1 billion in annual revenues by 2025, growing fourfold over 2021 projections. But this opportunity is also social and environmental; uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs) are demonstrating their value in everything from inspecting buildings and critical infrastructure, to detecting contamination in local water supplies. Recognising the key role they’ll play in overcoming some of the region’s greatest challenges, the GSMA hosted a dedicated seminar Connected Drones – Unlocking the possibilities in LATAM, at the most recent GSMA Mobile 360 Series.
In a session moderated by Alejandro Adamowicz, Regional Strategy and Technology Director, GSMA, industry experts discussed the progress the market had made in recent years, and the opportunities that lay ahead. For Nicholas Zylberglajt, CEO of Unmanned Life, the widespread deployment of drones across Latin America depends as much on the software that controls the drones as the capabilities of UAVs themselves. In his view, it was imperative that organisations and public authorities seeking to invest in drones should consider the importance of having a reliable platform for relaying data and communicating instructions. This, he argued, was ultimately essential to smart automation and thus to the realisation of the smart city and Industry 4.0. ‘We believe the future we will be autonomous – it’s about autonomous vehicles, both ground and air vehicles, and they need to be orchestrated as an autonomous workforce’, he said.
The importance of the underlying drone infrastructure was echoed by Alejandro Cortés, Business Development Director, Latin America North Region for Nokia Enterprise, LATAM: ‘drones must be able to take images of any type of event and transmit them across a good network so decisions can be made in a control centre, regardless of the scenario’, he said. Alejandro spoke of how the development of 5G could support this by improving security, reducing latency, and facilitating more sophisticated network functions – all of which are crucial to the mass deployment of drones. As 5G evolves and these factors are better utilised, the number of UAV applications will increase. Yet Alejandro demonstrated how drones were already playing a key role in creating sustainable local and national economies. He cited case studies such as using UAVs to check the status of the region’s wind farms, thereby allowing for more cost-effective and regular inspection of the green technology, and performing aerial water checks in Nicaragua’s coast to help protect and grow its shrimp population.
However, innovative UAV solutions are not just a result of technological development – positive impact can be made as a result of organisational change as well. Arnaud Henneville-Wedholm, Head of Sales and Business Development at GLOBHE described a number of ways in which his company had used ‘crowddroning’ to solve common issues. He explained that the company was in some sense an ‘Uber of the Skies’ due to its model of hiring local drone owners to gather data for centrally-ran projects. He identified a number of successes, including using drone-captured images to detect mosquito eggs, greatly helping to stem the spread of malaria. He explained that the company is also able to complement imaging with other data collection methods, such as water and air quality sensors, which can help support applications such as detection of leaks and environmental protection.
With the economic, environmental and social opportunities so clearly defined, LATAMs UAV industry must work together to help simplify deployment and encourage regulators and policymakers to support the growth of this burgeoning market. As Nicholas Zylberglajt stated ‘leadership is in partnership and it’s clear that no single company can develop this market alone’.
To find out more about the GSMA’s role in advanced air mobility, including how to join our collaborative Drones Interest Group, please visit: www.gsma.com/drones.