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The Emergence of Commercial Drones



Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have actually been around for about a century.

Even in 1918, the U.S. military had its first UAV, which acted as a “cruise missile” in combat. Nicknamed the Kettering Bug, it was essentially a flying bomb with 12-foot wings made of cardboard and paper mâché, running off a 40-horsepower Ford engine.

As you might imagine, the military has been a catalyst over the years for the development of UAV technology, which has allowed commercial drones to become cheaper, lighter, and more sophisticated. Today, drones aren’t just for delivering military payloads in foreign lands – UAVs will also be delivering your packages, taking photos, providing wireless internet services, and monitoring conservation efforts in remote locations.

The Commercial Drones Market

The following infographic comes to us from IFLY, a Drone Economy Strategy ETF focusing on the “development, research, and utilization of drones”.

It shows the history of military drone applications, and how that has led to today’s emerging market for commercial drones.

The Emergence of Commercial Drones

According to BI Intelligence, the total drone market today is close to $10 billion.

And despite the military market remaining the largest for now, it is worth noting that the commercial drone sector will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020. Eventually, it will pass the military market in size, as that is only growing at a 5% clip.

The Emerging Opportunity for Commercial Drones

The growing market on the civilian side will impact a variety of industries, including private security, law enforcement, real estate, media, film, construction, mining, agriculture, and utilities.

Hardware for commercial drones is important, especially in the early stages. However, as we see in other sectors, it will likely be the software that makes the difference in many applications. As it becomes cheaper to customize commercial drones, the door will be opened to allow new functionality in a wide array of niche spaces. Sophisticated drones could soon be doing everyday tasks like fertilizing crop fields on an automated basis, monitoring traffic incidents, surveying hard-to-reach places, or even delivering pizzas.

At the end of the day, the impact of commercial drones could be $82 billion and a 100,000 job boost to the U.S. economy by 2025.

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Ranked: The Top Startup Cities Around the World

Here are the global startup ecosystem rankings, highlighting the scale and maturity of major tech hubs worldwide.



This bar chart shows the top startup ecosystems in the world in 2024.

The Top Startup Cities Around the World

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

A richly connected network of founders, venture capital firms, and tech talent are some of the key ingredients driving a startup ecosystem.

As engines of growth, these tech clusters are evolving on a global scale. While the world’s leading startup cities are concentrated in America, several ecosystems, such as Beijing and Seoul, are growing in prominence as countries focus on technological advancement to spur innovation.

This graphic shows the best startup cities worldwide, based on data from Pitchbook.

The Global Startup Ecosystem Rankings

To determine the rankings, each city was analyzed based on the scale and maturity of their startup ecosystem over a six-year period ending in the second quarter of 2023.

Among the inputs analyzed and used to calculate the overall development score were fundraising activity, venture capital deals, and exit value:

RankCityDevelopment ScoreCapital RaisedDeal CountExit Value
1🇺🇸 San Francisco90$427.6B19,898$766.3B
2🇺🇸 New York76$179.9B13,594$171.7B
3🇨🇳 Beijing76$161.2B8,835$279.2B
4🇨🇳 Shanghai73$130.3B7,422$186.8B
5🇺🇸 Los Angeles71$144.6B9,781$181.4B
6🇺🇸 Boston70$117.0B6,044$172.8B
7🇬🇧 London64$99.0B11,533$71.9B
8🇨🇳 Shenzhen63$46.4B5,020$66.3B
9🇰🇷 Seoul61$31.1B6,196$71.0B
10🇯🇵 Tokyo60$26.2B5,590$28.0B
11🇨🇳 Hangzhou59$50.7B3,361$88.7B
12🇺🇸 Washington D.C.55$43.7B2,706$28.2B
13🇺🇸 Seattle54$31.7B2,693$35.6B
14🇸🇬 Singapore52$45.7B4,507$38.0B
15🇺🇸 San Diego52$33.5B2,023$44.7B
16🇺🇸 Austin52$26.4B2,636$22.9B
17🇨🇳 Guangzhou52$24.7B1,700$24.0B
18🇮🇱 Tel Aviv51$21.0B1,936$32.2B
19🇺🇸 Denver51$26.8B2,489$29.9B
20🇩🇪 Berlin50$31.2B2,469$15.9B

San Francisco dominates the pack, with $427.6 billion in capital raised over the six-year period.

Despite a challenging funding environment, nearly 20,000 deals closed, highlighting its outsized role in launching tech startups. Both OpenAI and rival Anthropic are headquartered in the city, thanks to its broad pool of tech talent and venture capital firms. Overall, 11,812 startups were based in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2023, equal to about 20% of startups in America.

Falling next in line is New York City, which raised $179.9 billion over the same time period. Crypto firm Gemini and machine learning company, Hugging Face, are two examples of startups based in the city.

As the top-ranking hub outside of America, Beijing is home to TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, which is one of the most valuable private companies in the world.

In recent years, much of the startup funding in China is being driven by government-backed funds. In particular, these funds are focusing heavily on “hard tech” such as semiconductor-makers and electric vehicle companies that align with the government’s strategic long-term goals.

Another leading tech hub, Singapore, has the highest venture capital funding per capita worldwide. In 2023, this was equal to an impressive $1,060 in venture funding per person. By comparison, venture funding was $345 per person in the U.S., the second-highest globally.

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