May 11, 2016 8:40 AM, EDT

Drone Market Seen Nearing $127 Billion in 2020, Revolutionizing Transport Industry, Study Shows

Workhorse Group Inc.

Drones soon will be boosting crop yields, verifying insurance claims and assisting in Hollywood blockbusters in a business that’s due to boom by more than 6,000% by the end of the decade, according to a global consulting group.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' report published May 11 said the transport industry also may be revolutionized by drones starting to provide “last-mile services.” In Switzerland, flying vehicles already have replaced postal carriers in tough-to-reach mountain regions. Drone-based applications also are helping the movie industry generate special effects, and they can be used for marketing and photography and movies, the report said.

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The global market for commercial applications of drone technology, currently estimated at $2 billion, will balloon to as much as $127 billion by 2020, according to PwC.

With Poland leading the way in drafting laws for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, nonmilitary applications already are being designed that may revolutionize thousands of industries. One project envisions drones flying over wheat fields to detect areas where crops are failing and then calling in reinforcements to tackle affected zones by spraying pesticide or nutrients.

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“The cost of drone technology is falling so quickly that a number of everyday applications are becoming cost-efficient,” Piotr Romanowski, a PwC partner and business advisory leader for central and eastern Europe, told reporters.

The new technology is allowing drones to accurately create three-dimensional maps and observe how they change over time, which could prove useful for infrastructure projects, verifying insurance claims and security applications, PwC said.

“The key barrier is actually the lack of legislation regarding the use of drones,” said Michal Mazur, head of Drone Powered Solutions at PwC in the region.

Poland was the world’s first country to draft legislation regarding the commercial use of drones, including required training for pilots, rules for BVLOS [beyond visible line of sight] flights and insurance regulations, followed by South Africa and Singapore, PwC said. The consultancy is setting up a team of as many as 40 people in Warsaw focused on the use of drone technology and data analytics in business.