Many drone industry players have said that business has been spiking this year — especially since coronavirus — and here’s one more data point to prove it: LAANC authorizations.
LAANC, which stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, is a system for drone pilots to gain access to fly in controlled airspace through an automated approval process.
Prior to LAANC, drone pilots had to contact air traffic control towers directly if they wanted to fly near airports. Now they can request acess through an automated application and receive their authorization in near-real time.
And LAANC authorizations have hit record highs. More than 320,000 LAANC authorizations have been granted since the automated approval program was launched in beta mode in 2017.
But data analyzed by Kittyhawk, which is one of the FAA’s approved companies that allows you to request LAANC authorization directly from their app, suggests that LAANC authorization requests and approvals are accelerating in 2020.
More LAANC authorizations have been granted this year (the first half of 2020), than in the first 21 months of LAANC’s launch combined, according to Kittyhawk’s report. That means about 1/3 of total LAANC authorizations granted were made in the first half of 2020.
Kittyhawk’s analysis does show a small dip in LAANC authorizations briefly as shelter in place took effect across the country, but said it was primarily due to a decrease in recreational fliers (rather than commercial or enterprise fliers) requesting LAANC authorizations.
Kittyhawk says it has processed 44% (or nearly half) of all LAANC authorizations.
The LAANC Authorization analysis aligns with trends other companies are reporting in the drone industry bearing proof that coronavirus has had no impact on — and in fact, may be propelling — the drone industry.
Drone mapping software company DroneDeploy said its customers have now mapped a collective 150 million acres since the company was founded in 2013 — and a whopping 50 million (that’s 1/3) of those maps were made in the past 8 months alone. They also said they saw a 33% increase in drone takeoffs among U.S. agricultural clients from mid-March to mid-April.
That’s not to say all drone companies are succeeding. In the first month of shelter in place restrictions, 44% of drone companies said they saw a negative impact on their business operation, according to a survey of 160 users of Skyward, a drone workflow platform owned by Verizon.
Though, at that point, 4% of companies had already reported that coronavirus has actually accelerated or highlighted the need for drones in business, and 45% reported no impact.
“Few industries will emerge out of the COVID-19 pandemic unscathed,” according to a report from DII.
But on the whole, the commercial drone industry is growing, especially as lockdown restrictions ease.
“The commercial drone has also already made gains during the pandemic thanks to medical applications of commercial drones amongst many other automated solutions,” according to DII. “Drone companies like Zipline and Wing have been able to deliver and scale their solutions quicker than previously expected. As a result, the industry as a whole is likely to feel the economic effects of the pandemic, but certain portions of it might feel those affects very differently to others.”