The IT revolution that began in the 1980s completely transformed the modern economy by enabling companies in industry to re-engineer their operations. Today we are witnessing a comparable disruption, on a similar scale, as drone technologies upend business models and reshape industry landscapes ranging from agriculture to filmmaking.
According to a new global study by PwC on the commercial applications of drone technology, the addressable global market for business services using drones is valued at over $127 bn.
Michał Mazur, partner at PwC’s drone-powered solutions division, speaks today on its perspectives in Kazakhstan.
Do you see perspectives for the commercial application of the drones in Kazakhstan?
- I’m sure Kazakhstan has the necessary prerequisites for enjoying the advantages of the increased commercial applications of drone powered solutions, which we foresee in the near future.
Vast territory with low population density is one of the conditions that leads to high demand for drone powered logistics solutions. And a good mix of agriculture, extractive and manufacture industries in the local economy creates infinite possibilities for the applications of drone technologies.
The most important factor: your government is open to innovation and supports the quick proliferation of new technologies.
What are the industries with the best prospects for drone applications in Kazakhstan?
- Looking at the industries, we see the highest potential for drones’ application in railways, construction, transport (including oil and gas transportation), mining, telecommunications, and agriculture. By coincidence, these industries are the basis of the Kazakhstan economy. Let me give you a few examples.
Telecommunications. Both fixed line (Kazakhtelecom, Transtelecom) and mobile (Kcell, Beeline, Tele2) operators can use drones to address some of their most pressing challenges. One of the most obvious implementations areas – drones can carry out inspections of antennas with lower cost, higher speed and no risk of injuries for workers. It took T-Mobile 15 minutes to conduct a pilot test of antenna masts at a stadium in Utrecht, as opposed to the week that it would have taken with traditional methods.
Furthermore, the leading telecom companies investigate using drones in analyzing network coverage, or even act as a portable mobile cellular site that provides temporary network and wireless coverage (at public events or during natural disasters).
Agriculture. As a leading regional agriculture goods exporter, Kazakhstan faces all the main challenges of the industry – climate change and increasing number of unexpected weather events, need to supervise a large area of farm land and increasing cost of such supervision.
Drones can be integrated at every stage of the crop lifecycle, from soil analysis and seed planting to choosing the right moment for harvesting. It is cheaper than using satellites or helicopters and provides higher quality. Drones can also spot bacteria or fungal infections at early stages and even apply remedies.
I’m not sure our society is ready for seeing drones as shepherds, but it is also one of the areas for implementation.
Mining. I know that some mining companies in Kazakhstan are already trying to use drones for various purposes – mainly observations. In open-cast mining we identify four main areas of drone applications: planning, extraction support, environmental protection and reporting.
For example, to meet the specific needs of the mining industry, Insitu built the GeoRanger drone, equipped with a magnetometer to store and interpret data related to the earth’s surface.
As another example, in combating air pollution, China has deployed a number of drones to track illegal night-time emissions produced by open-cast mines.
Oil and gas transportation. Kazakh companies (KazTransGaz, KazTransOil) operate thousands of kilometers of oil and gas pipelines. The surveillance costs that pipeline operators bear can be lowered with the help of drones.
Drones detect oil and gas leakages – and make it quicker and cheaper than traditional helicopters. There’s even potential in drones performing maintenance, especially in the case of hazardous work.
Are there any regulatory boundaries for the drones’ commercial flights in Kazakhstan?
- Our analysis shows that the key barrier to drones’ application boost is actually the lack of legislation regarding the use of drones.
Today, national legislators are struggling to keep pace with advances in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology. The first country to adopt and implement all necessary sets of regulations was Poland in 2013. Drone operators have to take exams – both theoretical and practical – have a valid medical examination and civil liability insurance.
At the global level, standards for air navigation are developed by the specialized agency of the United Nations - the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Of the 191 ICAO members, 63 have some regulations for drones already in place; nine states have pending regulations and five have temporarily banned the use of drones.
In Kazakhstan, as we know, national legislation hasn’t been modified yet to take into account the increasing usage of drones. Each drone – or UAV – has to be registered in the Civil Aeronautics Board; moreover, each flight has to be preliminarily approved by the Board and the Ministry. The rumor goes that the legislation is to be updated this or the next year – and we hope that Kazakhstan’s lawmakers will take into consideration the experience of Poland and other countries.
In general, legislation should be developed to ensure that drone flights are safe, drones are piloted by properly trained people, and nothing threatens national security or people’s privacy. On the other hand, legislation shouldn’t throttle the fledgling industry or prevent Kazakhstan business from taking advantage of drone technology.
What solutions does PwC have in the area of drones’ application?
- Drone Powered Solutions is the name of the PwC global center of excellence focusing on the use of drone technology and data analytics in business. It was established in Poland – a country which in 2013 became the first in the world to introduce a complete legal framework and institutions regulating the commercial use of drones. The team has carried out a number of commercial projects for clients. While we sub-contract the actual piloting of the drones themselves, all the other drone powered technologies have been developed within PwC, such as a geospatial data imaging app that allows the team to present clients with data gathered by drones in a simple and intuitive way on mobile devices.