Drone industry group the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) has published an in-depth analysis of the commercial drone industry, by looking at current Section 333 Exemptions.
The analysis shows where – and what – the commercial drone industry is right now, making it clear that the industry has a lot of room to spread across the country and that the potential for varied commercial applications is still virtually untapped.
The industry report indicates that the vast majority of Section 333 Exemptions have been issued in just 10 states, with most of them divided between the top 3: California, Florida, and Texas. Interestingly, California and Florida are two of the least friendly states for commercial drone operators, with state lawmakers considering heavy drone regulation on a seemingly constant basis. Even at the federal level, their lawmakers are not friendly to the industry: Florida’s Senator Nelson went on a diatribe about drone privacy during markup hearings for the Senate’s 2016 FAA Reauthorization package, and CA Senator Feinstein’s proposed amendments concerning changes to the federal preemption provision have drawn strong reactions from the drone industry.
The report also shows that while new commercial applications are introduced daily, the vast majority of current commercial operators are doing business in aerial video/photography, real estate, construction, surveying and infrastructure. While agriculture, film, and other applications are growing in strength, there is a lot of room for more operators in some of the lesser known applications like insurance, security, railroad operations, and inspection services. Clear regulations from the FAA, due to be released at the end of June, could help to drive demand and supply for those application – as well as those still in development.
A breakdown of the drones that commercial operators are currently using illustrates that DJI has a definitive market lead in the commercial space as well as with hobbyists, offering 6 of the top 10 platforms listed. The Inspire is the most used drone, followed by the Phantom series. But as newer commercial applications develop, there may be room for manufacturers with a narrow focus to find a market.
The report demonstrates not only that the industry’s growth has been tremendous in the last year – but that the industry has potential we haven’t even thought of yet.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.