The Federal Aviation Administration has released its forecast for the next two decades (via NextGov), which anticipates what’s to come for the aviation world between now and 2039. Particularly noteworthy is that the market for commercial drones is growing faster than anticipated, and could triple between now and 2023, while the market for non-commercial drones appears to be slowing.
The report covers a broad view of the aviation field, including the domestic US and international airline markets, cargo air traffic, space traffic, and drones. It says that unmanned aircraft systems “have been experiencing healthy growth in the United States and around the world” in the last five years, and notes that that growth has caused some problems, because it encompasses everything from amateur pilots to professional rigs sharing the same airspace with their larger, crewed counterparts.
When it comes to model drones (essentially non-commercial devices), the agency says as of December 31st, “more than 900,000 owners have registered” with the FAA since it mandated online registration for drones in 2015, with the administration estimating that there are around 1.25 million drones in operation (individual model drones don’t need to be registered). It also predicts that in the next five years, the market will slow as prices stabilize.
The report also examines trends when it comes to what it describes as non-model drones (commercial-focused devices) — of which each device must be registered. For this category, “the pace of monthly registration, almost 15,000, is nearly 3-times higher than the pace at which non-model aircraft owners registered their craft during the same time last year.” The administration says that as of the end of 2018, more than 27,000 non-model drones have been registered.
While the market for model drones appears to be slowing, the market for commercial aircraft is accelerating, and the FAA expects this growth to continue to do so. The registration rate will top 44 percent over last year’s figures, and it expects that by 2023, the market will have tripled in size, with an estimated 823,000 drones flying at that time. The report notes that the number of commercial drones flying by later this year (or early next year) will surpass the administration’s estimates for 2022 from last year’s report.
With that growth will come new uses. Companies like Amazon, Google, Walmart, and even 7-Eleven have thought about or experimented with deliveries via drone, while a Baltimore Hospital used a drone to deliver an organ to a patient last month. The report outlines that as drones “become operationally more efficient and safe, battery life expands, and integration continues, new business models will begin to develop,” such as new delivery or medical services, or for operations like search and rescue.