4.3 Million Hobbyist Drones Will Be Sold by 2020, FAA Predicts

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

The Federal Aviation Administration is predicting a bright future for the growth of the commercial and hobbyist drone industries after final regulations are approved.

The FAA said in a report that unmanned aircraft systems will be the “most dynamic growth sector within aviation.” It noted that venture capitalists have already sunk “considerable” funds into the industry in hopes of building early market share.

Already, the FAA predicted that 1.9 million hobbyist drones will be sold this year, along with more than 600,000 commercial drones.

Other predictions for the drone industry:

• The FAA predicts that 4.3 million hobbyist drones could be sold per year by 2020.

Currently, owners must register their drones online if they weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds. Registration costs $5 and lasts for three years. Commercial operators must apply for an exemption.

As of March, the FAA said there have been more than 408,000 registrations since the rule was instated in late December.

• The agency predicts that sales of small commercial drones could jump to 2.7 million by 2020.

But there’s a caveat. The FAA said that its predictions are “dependent on the regulatory structure ultimately adopted” for unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS.

“Once a final rule for small UAS is published, they will become more commercially viable than they are today,” it said in the report.

The FAA has said it hopes to finalize regulations for small commercial drones by June.

The FAA also said it expects commercial demand to increase once regulations “more easily enable” drones to fly beyond an operator’s line of sight and one pilot is allowed to operate multiple drones.

• The FAA expects that the biggest driver for commercial use will be in industrial inspection, with 42 percent of drones being used in that field. Next comes real estate and aerial photography at 22 percent, and then agriculture at 15 percent. Insurance and government uses round out the bottom five at 15 percent and 2 percent, respectively.