Huge commercial drone registration surge forces FAA to revise forecast

The FAA's latest aerospace forecast anticipates a massive uptick in commercial drone numbers, according to the newly released report. The US saw more than 175,000 new drones registered with the FAA by commercial operators in 2018, a huge 170-percent increase over the previous year. This surge in registration far exceeded what officials had anticipated, paving the way for the FAA's new strong growth prediction leading up to 2023.

The FAA has anticipated growth in the commercial drone industry; that's no surprise. However, officials were caught off guard by just how quickly that growth has occurred, exceeding the 44-percent growth prediction to reach 170-percent. The commercial drone market in the US has reached 277,000 units, with 175k of them being new aircraft registered in 2018.

In light of that increase, officials have tweaked their commercial drone growth forecast; the previously anticipated 452,000 commercial drones that were expected by 2022 are now predicted to arrive by the beginning of 2020. Under the new forecast, the FAA anticipates the market reaching approximately 835,000 commercial drones by 2023.

In its report, the FAA says the new prediction is based on registrations, as well as survey info, newly published industry forecasts, and internal research. The estimate concerns 'non-model aircraft,' which the FAA has split into two categories: consumer grade and professional grade, with the latter typically costing above $10,000 USD. The FAA notes that prices in both categories have been dropping, with consumer grade largely dominating the market.

The FAA anticipates an upcoming rapid growth in professional grade drone adaption, particularly as "newer and more sophisticated uses are identified, designed, and operationally planned and flown." The agency points specifically toward drone package delivery, saying that if the appropriate steps are taken to authorize this delivery method, "the growth in [the professional grade sector] will likely be phenomenal."