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US drone use set to soar

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Commercial drone use in the US is set to increase tenfold over the next four years, predicts its regulatory body the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to the FAA, since its online system went live in April last year, more than 44,000 commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have been registered. The FAA predicts that this number will rise to 420,000 by 2021.

In its FAA Aerospace Forecast for 2017-2037, the body says: “The commercial drone sector is very dynamic and appears to be at an early stage of growth. Unlike the hobbyist sector, FAA anticipates that growth in this sector will continue to accelerate over the next few years.”

It continues: “Based on the registration trends observed, expert opinions collected during the TRB [Transportation Research Board] workshop, review of available industry forecasts, and market/industry research, FAA forecasts that the non-hobbyist fleet by 2021 will likely (base scenario) be 10 times larger than the size of the fleet in 2016.”

Looking at the current usage, the report highlights “construction, industrial and utility inspection” as the second biggest use of drones, making up 26% of the market. The biggest use for drones is currently aerial photography with 34% of UAS being used for this. 

Unsurprisingly, present geospatial distribution of commercial drone ownership is correlated with economic or commercial activities across the country.

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