In Brief
  • Larger conglomerates will be investing more in drone technology, increasing revenues from drone sales to $12 billion in 2021 from around $8 billion last year.
  • A US government "exemption" program has already authorized a number of companies to fly small drones commercially.

Drones on the Rise

Drones are not just for nerds and nukes anymore. A report from Business Insider (BI) projects that global demand for commercial drones will be growing in the consumer, enterprise, and government sectors alike.

Drones have been on the rise for over the last decade. Interest in drones from individuals has grown so much that there are now dozens of national and international conventions showcasing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), like the ASCEND Conference & Expo coming up this July in Portland. Over the next five years, BI projects that shipments of drones will more than quadruple, largely due to technological advances that will make drones cheaper and easier to fly than ever before.

Credit: The Drone Wall
Credit: The Drone Wall

In addition to that, private businesses and state and local governments are more motivated than ever to use this technology in construction, agriculture, and land management — just to name a few industries. Right now, many of the vendors who are taking advantage of UAVs are small to mid-sized private companies and startups. However, BI predicts that larger conglomerates will be investing more in drone technology, increasing revenues from drone sales to $12 billion in 2021 from around $8 billion last year.

Utility and Regulation of UAVs

While drones are being used for such applications as mail delivery in France and power-line cleaning in China, the United States hasn’t figured out exactly how to deal with drones quite yet. The Federal Aviation Administration has recently drafted rules limiting the use of commercial drones to select industries (like the oil and gas sectors) and applications (like aerial surveying in the agriculture).

However, a US government “exemption” program has already authorized a number of companies to fly small drones commercially. Many hope that regulations may be further loosened by the increased prevalence of technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance, which will make flying UAVs safer.

But many business leaders are forging ahead into the drone industry, regardless of the state of US policy. As the money pouring into UAV technology and application grows, so too expands the ways that drones could make our world safer. Could we see more nations use drones to deliver vaccines to isolated groups? Will UAVs make dangerous jobs, like working oil fields, less hazardous? Investors certainly seem to hope so, and so do we.