U.S. Could Reach 1 Million Drone Flights Per Day Within 20 Years, Study Says

Research also suggests the U.S. drone market could be a $250 million business by 2018.
Phil Bray Courtesy of Millenium Films

The United States will reach 1 million drone flights per day within the next 20 years, given the right regulatory environment, findings suggest in new Consumer Electronics Association research.

"We see a dynamic market with tremendous growth potential, once we have final Federal Aviation Administration rules to allow commercial unmanned aircraft systems [drones] operation, combined with continued industry and FAA cooperation to achieve low-risk, beyond-line-of-sight flights," said Brian Markwalter, CEA senior vp market research and standards.

The FAA is currently working to revise its drone use regulations. Meanwhile, Hollywood's interest in placing cameras on drones for production is growing. So too is interest from additional industries that see opportunities, for instance, for "quick delivery of life-saving diagnostics and medicine ... and safer work environments for those who inspect and maintain our buildings and bridges," noted CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.

According to CEA projections, the global market for consumer drones will approach $130 million in revenue in 2015, increasing by more than 50 percent from 2014, with unit sales of consumer drones expected to approach 425,000, an increase of 65 percent.

CEA reported that the U.S. drone market is growing but "risks falling behind in the global market because of fewer or more progressive regulations in other countries." CEA's research estimates a pent-up market demand of $150 million-$200 million in UAS sales for "line of sight" operations, which CEA believes could reach $250 million by 2018.

The association also projects that with continued development of "sense and avoid" technology and FAA rules that foster "beyond-line-of-sight" operations, the United States' drone industry could become a $1 billion market. 
"Realizing these economic gains will require ongoing FAA and industry cooperation, as well as a commitment to the necessary infrastructure," Markwalter said.