Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have come a long way since their inception. The concept of drones dates back to the early 20th century, but significant advancements have occurred in the last few decades, and more particularly over the last few years.

Initially, drones were primarily used for military purposes, such as surveillance, reconnaissance and combat missions.

World War I: The earliest precursor to modern drones was the Kettering Bug, developed during World War I by the United States. It was essentially an unmanned aerial torpedo designed for reconnaissance and bombing missions. However, it was not fully autonomous and required pre-programmed flight paths.

World War II: During World War II, both the Allies and the Axis powers experimented with remotely piloted aircraft. The V-1 flying bomb, used by Nazi Germany, was a primitive cruise missile that could carry a warhead and fly autonomously.

Cold War Era: The Cold War saw significant advancements in drone technology. The United States developed the Ryan Firebee, an early reconnaissance drone. These drones were used for surveillance, intelligence gathering and target practice.

Predator and Reaper: In recent decades, the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones have become iconic. These armed drones are used for surveillance, reconnaissance and targeted strikes. They play a crucial role in modern warfare, especially in counter-terrorism operations.

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Drones have significantly transformed warfare in recent years, impacting both conventional and asymmetric conflicts. No longer limited to military superpowers. Smaller nations and insurgent groups now regularly employ them in a wide range of contexts. Drones enable real-time situational awareness and intelligence gathering, improved targeting and the suppression of adversary air and missile defences.

Drones, in all their various combinations and permutations, challenge traditional concealment and survivability on the battlefield.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East has seen the evolution of drone deployment, adapting to changing battle conditions. As technology becomes more sophisticated, drones, linked to artificial intelligence (AI), now play an even greater role. Drones can precisely target enemies, co-ordinate in real time with on battlefield troops and central command, to disrupt their operations and leadership. Drone strikes can alter the course of conflicts and influence political outcomes.

As drones have become more ubiquitous their cost of manufacture has declined significantly while their level of sophistication has increased. They now come in all shapes and sizes and can be readily purchased off the shelf or online and retrofitted for military applications. Drones have shifted from being primarily used in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency to full-scale conventional combat. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect further advancements in drone capabilities and their impact on warfare.

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Civilian Applications

Agriculture: Drones equipped with multispectral cameras monitor crop health, detect diseases and optimize irrigation. Farmers use drones to apply fertilizers and pesticides precisely where needed, reducing waste. They are also used extensively in livestock management and control.

Infrastructure and Construction: Drones capture high-resolution images and create 3D models of construction sites, bridges and roads. Drones inspect power lines, pipelines, and other infrastructure, minimizing risks for human inspectors. Drones have significantly reduced both the cost and time associated with monitoring infrastructure and planning repairs and maintenance.

Environmental Monitoring: Conservationists use drones to track animal movements, study habitats and combat poaching. Drones assess forest health, detect pests and monitor floods and bush fires.Logistics and Delivery: Companies such as Amazon and DHL are exploring drone delivery options for faster and more efficient last-mile delivery. Medical supplies, food and other essentials can be delivered to remote areas. Increasingly they are looking to transport larger and larger payloads.

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Search and Rescue: Drones aid in locating missing persons, especially in rugged terrain or disaster-stricken regions. Thermal imaging and real-time video help rescue teams in all aspects of search and rescue.

Entertainment and Photography: Drones capture stunning aerial shots for movies, documentaries and photography. They have revolutionized the way we view landscapes and events. This is both at a professional and personal level.

While drones offer immense potential, challenges remain. Striking a balance between innovation and safety is crucial. Governments worldwide have developed and are continuing to develop regulations to manage the increased prevalence of drone usage both in urban and non- urban environments. Drones can invade privacy if misused. Further guidelines and regulations continue to be formulated as needed.

Expect further improvements in battery life, autonomy, range and payload capacity.

Financial Impact and Industry Implications

A recent Deloitte Access Economics report highlights the economic benefits of drones in Australia:

GDP Boost: The growth of drone use is predicted to contribute $14.5 billion to Australia’s GDP over the next 20 years, with approximately 5,500 full-time jobs per year expected to be created due to expanding drone use.

Businesses stand to save around $9.3 billion over the next two decades. With the key sectors benefiting including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining and construction.

Different states and territories will experience varying economic gains.

For instance, Western Australia could see a $2.5 billion increase in real Gross Regional Product (GRP), while Tasmania may see $0.4 billion. In summary, drones are revolutionizing industries, enhancing efficiency, and contributing significantly to economies worldwide. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect even greater advancements in drone capabilities and applications.

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PrimaryMarkets provides investors access to companies that are shaping the future of the commercialisation of drones. We provide access to opportunities previously only accessible to institutional investors.

PrimaryMarkets is currently raising capital for Autono Drone a high-tech Australian technology company. Autono Drone designs and manufactures heavy payload autonomous, Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL), Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) cargo drones. It is building a family of scalable cargo drones with an initial payload of 200kg in a compact cargo pod, building up to 750 kg.

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