The commercial drone industry is already touching almost every sector of the economy today, and its reach is only expected to increase. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) released a study based on more than 3,000 FAA exemptions, finding that 38 types of businesses have been approved for drone operations, and the FAA has already granted drone exemptions in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
“The UAS industry is poised to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S., and these numbers demonstrate that a wide variety of industries are eager to take advantage of this technology,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “From inspecting our nation’s infrastructure, to providing farmers with aerial views of their crops, the applications of UAS are virtually limitless. It’s no wonder businesses—small and large—are clamoring to use this technology.”
California is the leading state in receiving drone exemptions with 360 approvals, followed by Florida with 328 and Texas with 268. According to the report, the top business uses for drones include aerial photography, real estate, aerial inspection, aerial survey, construction, infrastructure and agriculture. As far as the drones being used to carry out operations, the report found the DJI Inspire 1 as the most used drone, followed by the Phantom 3, the Phantom 2 Vision+, and the Phantom 2.
“While some businesses are flying, this current system of case-by-case approvals isn’t a long-term solution,” said Wynne. “For the full potential of the UAS commercial market to be realized in the U.S., the FAA needs to finalize its small UAS rule, without further delays. Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS that will reduce the barriers to commercial operations. The positive effects of the regulation will be felt by companies across the nation.”
Other findings of the report included a majority of companies that have received exemptions are making less than US$1 million in annual revenue and have less than 10 employees; there was a sharp increase of exemptions from March 2015 to May 2015; and about 65% of approved platforms came from DJI.
The organization predicts that during the first 10 years of UAS integration, more than 100,000 new jobs will be created and more than $82 billion in economic impact will be made.
AUSVI will continue to update its study on a regular basis. More information can be found here.