IDTechEx forecasts electric vehicle sales in 37 categories, the variety increasing each year as new sectors become substantial. Some sectors such as golf cars are mature and not growing. In other sectors, including electric motorcycles, cars, buses and yes, unmanned electric aircraft, the news comes thick and fast with substantial sales being generated both by sale of the devices , sale of services around them and new technology for them.
The novel market research report "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Electric UAVs 2014-2024" examines what will be achieved and the enabling technologies that will make it possible. For example, quadcopters and fixed wing small aircraft launched by hand are becoming very important beyond Amazon and Google separately looking at them for postal delivery. DHL plan a pilot project to deliver medications by unmanned aerial vehicles daily to the North Sea island of Juist.
Sometimes called drones, to give them an entirely underserved military aura, they are swooping over the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias in Turkey to find, identify and map archaeological sites by heat differences. These cameras give 3D images permitting computer reconstruction, saving months of work. The planes are 0.5 kg fixed wing eBees with a one meter wingspan in this case.
Others fly around farms, their gathered information permitting targeted application of fungicides, insecticides and fertilisers, often reducing use of these chemicals by up to 90%, even inside greenhouses.
While commercial use of UAVs are banned in most of the USA, their Federal Aviation Administration is considering changes and recently approved the use of an UAV by the major energy company BP, in remote Alaska.
In the entertainment industry, there are many applications where it is desirable to provide an aerial display. Disney recently filed 3 patents for drones which will be used in aerial displays - controlled, choreographed and repeated as required to mimic fireworks. Larger versions higher up are planned in the thousands for surveillance, relaying communications and permitting ubiquitous internet access thanks to Facebook and many other companies and there are certainly military uses for those as well. An increasing number of them are intended to stay aloft on sunshine alone for up to five years. Later, that will be possible nearer to Earth where there is less sunshine and the air is denser.