2 min read

Emerging Market Strategy: Market Positioning for UAV

Emerging Market Strategy: Market Positioning for UAV


Just back from SPIE’s Defense & Commercial Sensing (DCS) conference in Anaheim, and preparing for XPONENTIAL in Dallas next month, we’re noticing that the emerging drone market presents real promise as well as challenges.

The optics, photonics, and imaging exhibitors at SPIE DCS share a common challenge with XPONENTIAL’s component exhibitors—a great deal of unknowns in:

  • UAV adoption curve
  • UAV applications to invest in
  • Requirements
  • Regulatory environment

Market analysts expect that commercial UAV sales will quadruple over the next five years. But what’s the play for components like optics and photonics?


To date, there seems to be no middle ground between high-end defense and low-end toys. That reality is rapidly changing, and there appears to be a viable market opportunity in imaging. Though market growth looks promising, the question remains: Which applications are the best fit, and how soon until volume production and adoption?

In one optics and photonics industry presentation, “The Industrial Impacts of Thermal Imaging Drones,” Randall Warnas, Global Distribution & Sales Manager (UAV) of FLIR, explored UAV applications for aerial thermal imaging including:

Public Safety

  • Remote fire fighting: Imaging technology can allow first responders to identify a fire-fighting strategy and arrange for specialized equipment while limiting the danger to people on the ground.
  • Law enforcement: Isotherm cameras are being used for K9 training, spotting and identifying suspects, and documenting the situation.
  • Search and rescue: UAV aerial thermal imaging is especially useful in remote, rough terrain, and has saved 38 lives in last 10 months.
  • Surveillance: Private security personnel can set a perimeter and deploy drones automatically when the perimeter is breached. The drone will send video ahead for safety.


  • Train and infrastructure inspection: Thermal imaging has the potential to cut down on the $30b worth of goods stolen from trains in the US each year.
  • Power: In utility inspection, aerial imaging reduces the risk involved in climbing poles. Workers can inspect each component with autonomous drones that work the grid and report anomalies. In solar energy applications, companies can increase power output by increasing the frequency of inspection.
  • Oil and gas: Thermal imaging can detect heat difference in miles and miles of pipeline in remote areas.


  • Water management: Drones can monitor the concentration of water in soil, allowing farmers to make an action plan for dense crops, preserving water and maximizing output.
  • Temperature tracking: Thermal imaging can be used to scan acres of crops, providing temperature data that can help determine how much water is needed.

With applications so widespread, how do you optimize your technology? Where do you focus your marketing efforts?

We worked with one client to identify a marketing strategy by conducting pilot tests with leaders in several key markets. Understanding the long buying cycles of larger companies allowed them to build credibility and engage the key players while publishing the pilot test findings and marketing to second-tier companies.

Another photonics client is also smartly keeping multiple irons in the fire from a technology perspective, and focusing their marketing efforts on education via inbound marketing, helping companies weigh the tradeoffs of a design and approach.

In high-growth emerging markets, customers will be more open to collaboration, from design and prototype through volume production. They also will be anxious for credible data to justify the technology. Your marketing and sales strategy should support these needs.


To find out more about the new sales model and winning in emerging markets, download our presentation.

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Want to talk through your strategy or book a meeting at XPONENTIAL? Contact us.


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