Drones are quickly becoming omnipresent in the United States, and the FAA has the exponential growth numbers. A little over two years ago, the FAA made the registration of each small UAS (consumer drones) mandatory. The agency was rushing to fill the vacuum of regulations. Within weeks, it had announced over 181,000 drone owners registered in its database.
After a brief court fight over the legality of the FAA issuing laws, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 made the registration compulsory and ended the debate of if the agency could require registration.
In 2017, the FAA announced during CES (January) registrations stood at the 670,000. In late March 2017, the agency released updated figures showing more than 770,000 drones registered. A 100,000 uptick in a little over a month.
Fast forward to 2018, and the latest FAA numbers have the registrations at over one million consumer drones. The passage of the FAA bill s expected to push the number of registrations even higher.
Business is good for drone manufacturers – DJI, Yuneec, Parrot, and Autel. Most of the uptick belongs to DJI, who holds a dominant market share in the industry. Other companies are developing the consumer camera drones as quickly as possible, but DJI seems ready with a counter with each announcement.
What does the growth of the drone market look like past 2019? Expected crowded skies according to FAA estimates,
Here’s how the growth of the consumer drone market looks plotted out. These numbers are for the United States only and do not reflect worldwide sales nor a complete picture of the actual number of drones in use in the U.S.
Hobbyist (consumer) Drones
DJI’s dominance is apparent though not total. The FAA is expecting robust growth in the sector. Registration numbers are above one million, while the agency estimates the actual fleet size is well north of 1.5 million. At the industry’s current pace, expectations are for the numbers to more than triple to 3.55 million by 2021 for an average annual growth rate of 26.4 percent.
It’s a midline forecast with a topline estimate at 4.5 million to a low case of 2.75 million by 2021. The agency recognizes the uncertainty over the public’s continued adoption of the new technology. It admits even the topline forecast could be low due to newer models offering greater portability and usability.
2018 NPD Numbers
After doubling in 2017, the drone industry is enjoying continued growth in the higher price tiers. In 2017, it was entry-level drones driving demand. In 2018, NPD has seen a marked shift towards drones priced between $500 and $1000 by a factor of 33 percent. The higher market of $1000+ camera drones has enjoyed similar growth as consumers look for more advanced features and quality cameras.
“Growing distribution of drones is one factor driving increasing sales, as these products are more readily accessible to consumers,” said Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Consumers are also willing to spend more for features including premium camera quality, portability, and onboard storage.”
Portability is also a key driver of growth as evidenced by the recent releases of the DJI Mavic 2, the Parrot Anafi and the Autel EVO.
“Consumers want to be able to easily take their drone on excursions to new places to capture the experience from a different perspective, which is why we are seeing increasing availability of premium features from market leaders, like DJI,” noted Arnold. “Advances in form factors that increase portability and camera enhancements will continue to fuel consumer interest in 2018.”
There is overlap in the market, but the FAA expects the non-hobbyist fleet to grow at an even more rapid pace. In 2017, the number stood over 100,000 as the strict regulatory exceptions gave way to the Part 107 license. It’s under this new framework that the FAA expects growth in the commercial market by an annual average of 58.6 percent to 442,000 by 2021.
Its topline forecast is 1.62 million, and the low end is 237,900. With the ability to obtain a Part 107 license and LAANC for fast approvals to conduct business in restricted airspace, all signs point to the topline forecast as correct and possibly underestimating growth.
DJI has already secured approval as a LAANC supplier, and apps like Kittyhawk are rushing out updates to quickly obtain clearances for drone pilots.
In addition to LAANC companies like DJI are working under the new FAA law to provide electronic identifiers for consumer drones using existing technology. It will serve to protect the operator’s privacy while giving government and law enforcement easy access to pilot info if they violate rules and regulations.
Drones are undoubtedly a major growth sector for technology. While there was a lot of consternation over the new FAA bill, it will serve to provide sound guidelines over drone use versus the hodgepodge regulations and ordinances scattered around the country. Sound off below on the growth of the consumer drone market.