The drones are coming, the drones are coming!
Personal flying drones were a booming eBay market in 2014, and their 2015 growth looks to push sales even higher. eBay personal drone sales doubled from February through November of 2014, according to eBay data-crunching leader Terapeak.
In 2014, unit sales went from a few thousand in the early months of the year to nearly 20,000 every week. The holiday season was even better, with strong surge selling at the end of the year. According to Terapeak, holiday sales more than doubled sales from the rest of the year.
The trend continues in 2015. At the 2015 Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Consumer Electronics Association estimated the global market for consumer drones at $130 million for 2015. It expects the market to grow to over $1 billion by the end of the decade.
High-Performance Consumer Drones Lead the Way
The remote-controlled flying machines - referred to as quadcopters by insiders - have been capturing the imaginations of hobbyists worldwide. Although some of the political headlines have cast a shadow over the military use of drones, all kinds of enthusiasts have ingenious and creative uses for these devices.
The surfing community uses them for unheard-of angles at breaks like The Wedge in Newport Beach, California and Teahupoo, Tahiti. The Golf Channel uses them to film PGA tour events. Even Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN used them to film wild animals on the Serengeti in Tanzania and groups of children in Zanzibar.
Parts are becoming cheaper, designs are more progressive, and market demand is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s why drone technology was such a big hit at this year’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
“Even though the drone market is quite new, most of the products I saw at CES 2015 looked fairly polished,” said Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff. “This is in stark contrast to just a few years ago when every drone I saw looked like it was built from Erector set parts.”
Hobbyists Driving Accessory Sales
Terapeak’s data show rapid drone sales increases in the early part of 2015, even though the holiday season is over. Interestingly, drone accessories sales are increasing at an even faster rate. Accessories include hardware parts like controllers, gears, and frames, and external upgrades like carrying cases, decals, and skins. Since drones are so customizable, and hobbyists are so keen to outfit their rigs for improved performance and looks, accessory sales have taken off.
Notable Trends Within the Category
While most of us have seen what drones can do with cameras, there are some notable trends in the outdoor, fitness and tech communities.
Many of the newer drones have technology that allows them to follow their users. For example, Trace.com’s Flyr1 drone, can follow visual patterns, like a logo, printed on the back of a shirt. The device can track and video record the shirt-wearer’s activity for up to 40 minutes.
Zano, a palm-sized, portable drone locks in on its user and takes airborne selfies! The units include sonar, GPS, infrared and barometric sensors.
The Airdog, another portable drone, tracks user locations via a wearable wristband. Put on the band, and your drone will video-capture you in full HD within minutes. Why on Earth would anyone do this? There have been some compelling use cases. Athletes, for example, use them for recording workouts and tweaking training. There are also many people out there creating original content related to active outdoor niches. Drones can help them do it without a film crew and with very unique perspectives.
All in all, the drone story is a highly compelling work in progress. eBay sellers have caught on, sales are in rapid growth mode, and this will continue to be an intriguing category for years to come.