Applications for drone technology across the global power and utilities industry could be worth up to $9.5 billion (£7.2bn) a year by 2021.
That’s the forecast from PwC, which suggests the unmanned aerial vehicles could prove useful in a wide number of roles, for example conducting geospatial surveys, assessing levels of pollution and even using flamethrowers to burn rubbish off overhead power lines.
For example, one of the single biggest transmission system maintenance costs in many countries is dealing with threats such as overgrown vegetation and trees near cables.
Drones can make the trimming process safer and more efficient, as well as provide data that helps predict and avoid damage from falling trees.
PwC says regulators are increasingly concerned about reliability and says many believe drones can help improve this situation by conducting more regular maintenance.
The firm’s Drone Powered Solutions Partner, Michał Mazur, said: “Pressure to shift to renewables from fossil fuels, while reducing prices, is forcing companies to look for new ways to stay profitable.
“As companies reinvent their business models, drones are helping increase the reliability of energy production, transmission and distribution.”