Drones and Robotics to See Explosive Growth Through 2021

Adoption of drones and robotics will more than double in the next three years. Drones will outpace the larger and more mature robotics category, but both will grow by solid double digits year-over-year for the next three years. 

Adoption of drones and robotics will more than double in the next three years. Drones will outpace the larger and more mature robotics category, but both will grow by solid double digits year-over-year for the next three years.

According to the new report from IDC, combined worldwide spending on drones and robotics totaled $84.44 billion in 2017. That figure will jump to $103.1 billion in 2018. By 2021, spending will reach $218.4 billion — a three-year compound annual growth rate of 25.4 percent.

Robotics will account for more than 90 percent of spending in the category across all sectors through the forecast period, including consumer spending. The category will reach $94 billion this year and will grow at a CAGR of 25 percent through 2021.

Drones, meanwhile, will hit a comparatively paltry $9 billion in 2018 but will grow even faster than robotics, at a CAGR of 29.8 percent through 2021, according to IDC.

Adoption of drones and robotics will more than double in the next three years. Drones will outpace the larger and more mature robotics category, but both will grow by solid double digits year-over-year for the next three years.

"Industrial robots are becoming more intelligent, human-friendly and easier to work with," said Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, research director, Robotics, at IDC, in a prepared statement. "This has accelerated their rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry beyond automotive, especially in high-tech manufacturing that requires light-weight robots with higher precision, flexibility, mobility and collaborative capability. Vendors who are not able to meet such demands will see their market position quickly eroded."

"Growth in the service robotics market is being driven by a collision of robotic technology maturity, market readiness, and related technology maturity," said John Santagate, research director, Service Robotics, at IDC, in a prepared statement. "Robots did not reach this point overnight; it has been a decades-long effort to bring robots to the point they are today. Over time, innovators have been building upon existing technology and layering new and emerging technology onto robotic devices. We have reached a point now where the mechanics of robots are mature and the addition of artificial intelligence, advanced vision systems, cloud applications, Internet of Things, and continued mechanical innovation has enabled safe, collaborative robots that are working with people rather than replacing people."

"While robotics has its roots in the manufacturing sector, we continue to see increasing acceptance and adoption of robots in several other industries, such as resources and transportation," said Jessica Goepfert, IDC program director, Customer Insights & Analysis, in a prepared statement. "Organizations in these areas are attracted to the promise of greater efficiency and productivity. But they are also turning to robotics to address other concerns such as skills shortages, workplace safety, and keeping up with the accelerating pace of business."

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).