French drone specialist Parrot is looking to tempt small business customers with affordable UAVs specialized for industry-specific roles.
Drone technology can be put to work in a number of industries, but barriers to entry such as price and ease of use can be restrictive to newcomers.
Parrot is widely credited with being a drone industry pioneer, having launched gadgets that anyone could pick up and fly as far back as 2010. But since those heady days the company’s influence in the industry has diminished. Competition from China has been fierce; market leader DJI is thought to have a 72 percent global share of drone purchases across all price points. That level of domination doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre.
Parrot expands professional drone range
One area that is perhaps underserved, however, is commercial drone hardware. Currently, that market is dominated by DJI, with drones that are primarily for consumer photography purposes but advanced enough to be multi-functional.
Back in May, Parrot revamped some of its consumer drones for the commercial market. The popular Bebop 2 was adapted for use cases in construction and agriculture.
Now, the company has taken that idea a step further. Its latest consumer drone, the Bebop 2 Power, has been relaunched in two separate guises for businesses: one suitable for thermal imaging tasks and the other with a multispectral camera for precision agriculture applications.
First, there’s the Bebop Pro Thermal, Parrot’s new $1,500 multipurpose quadcopter. The aim is to provide construction and rescue services with everything they need to carry out inspections. The drone has two cameras: one standard, front-facing high-definition camera, and one for thermal imaging. The thermal camera offers precise heat-sensitive images and all data can be stored and viewed through Parrot’s FreeFlight Thermal app.
The potential applications for this technology are vast. The majority of customers will use the drone to stream or record images of buildings, roofs or solar panels, detecting areas of thermal loss or activity to support decision making. But the same drone might also be used as part of search and rescue efforts, detecting the heat signatures of humans hidden from view – by building debris in an earthquake situation, for example.
Second, there’s Parrot’s $5,000 Bluegrass; this is essentially the same drone, but fitted with the company’s multispectral sensor, Parrot Sequoia. Its aim is to help farmers improve return on investment and make more informed decisions.
Multispectral imaging enables precision agriculture by giving farmers easy access to an overview that allows them to detect problem areas in crop fields. Combined with Parrot’s cloud platform, Airinov First+, the Bluegrass drone can autonomously fly above 30 hectares on a single charge.
Parrot’s extensive commercial reach
To many, Parrot is known exclusively as a consumer electronics company. The French manufacturer sells everything from drones to remote control cars to smart plant pots. But the company has invested heavily in the commercial drone industry ahead of this year’s launch of its professional range. It also has majority holdings in SenseFly and Pix4D – a drone mapping specialist and an enterprise cloud service start-up, respectively.
With the consumer market more competitive than ever, Parrot is beginning to join the dots and connect its investments. As a result, commercial clients are gaining access to an impressive array of drone industry tools and services.
Speaking to MarketWatch, Parrot’s chief global officer for sales and marketing, Chris Roberts, said, “What we’re trying to do is we have the consumer business and the commercial business, and we’re trying to build the bridge in between.”
“We’re creating a product that is easy to use for a small to medium-size enterprise, making it reachable,” he said. “This will educate the market on what drones can do.”