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EMC: Commercial drone storage market primed for takeoff

Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is just starting to emerge. Drone storage, on the other hand, isn’t getting as much attention.

EMC wants to gain a toehold in the market for drone-related scalable storage, particularly its scale-out Isilon NAS and object-based Elastic Cloud Storage.  Equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensor technologies, a single drone flight can capture terabytes of data.

Due to the vehicles’ modest size, however, internal drone storage capacity is limited, said Josh Bernstein, a vice president at EMC’s Emerging Technology division.

“We see drones expanding data lakes into data oceans,” Bernstein said.

A report in May by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers pegged the global drone storage market at $127 billion.

Industries such as agriculture, construction, energy and government use drones to generate vast sums of data. Drone technologies capture images with exponentially greater detail.  Farmers deploy aerial drone imagery to design more efficient watering plans or pinpoint potential crop threats. The images help building companies improve finite element modeling, fracture analysis and thermal analysis.

Aside from managing the large files, companies need the capability to analyze and mine the data to derive value from it. Bernstein said EMC’s interest in drone storage directly ties to its initiatives in open source software-defined storage.

“To be a good drone pilot, you first have to be a good pilot. You also have to be able to successfully consume open source software. It turns out the people that have (those) skills often are also our customers.”

Bernstein said EMC customer EagleView Technologies, based  in Bothell, Wash., uses drones to provide 3D aerial roofing models across a range of industries.  EagleView each year adds tens of millions of images to its big data drone storage repository based on EMC Isilon NL series scale-out storage, VCE Vblock 300 converged architecture and EMC XtremIO all-flash storage arrays.

This month, the U.S. government gave Google’s Alphabet Inc. X subsidiary approval to test delivery drones in an effort to formalize safety regulations.