Who really buys drones? Surprising drone ownership data proves industry is bigger than we thought

Surprising drone ownership data from aerial photography and video company Philly by Air suggests that a lot more Americans own drones than you might think.

An impressive 8% of Americans own at least one drone, and an even higher 14% of Americans have flown one. That’s at least according to a study commissioned by Philly by Air, which used Google Surveys to conduct a randomized online sampling of 1,050 Americans.

Considering there are nearly 120 million households in the U.S., according to the latest Census figures, that indicates about 9.5 million drones could be out there in the U.S. (and there could be even more, if some households own multiple drones).

The Philly by Air survey asked simply, “do you own a drone?” without specifying type, so someone could have answered ‘yes’ if they own a cheap, toy drone — they’re not all necessarily expensive camera drones.

But if Philly by Air’s survey is any indication, then most drone estimates could be vastly undercounted.

owns drones drone usage ownership philly by air drone ownership data
Visualization and data gathered by Philly by Air

It also means far fewer drones are actually registered with the FAA than are out there. Just over 1.5 million drones (1,662,819, to be exact) are registered in the U.S., according to FAA data as of July 21, 2020. Of those, 477,969 are commercial drones, and 1,181,269 are recreational drones.

Of course, only drones weighing 0.55 pounds [250 grams] or more need to be registered, so there’s always a chance that a huge chunk of the survey respondents who said that they have drones actually have micro drones that don’t need to be registered anyway.

And the potentially 9.5 million drones out there today is even higher than early FAA estimates. The FAA in 2016 projected that there would be 7 million drones projected to be active in the skies by 2020. Of course, not all drones out there are active — and the reality is that many are in closets collecting dust.

drone ownership data by gender male female us
Visualization and data gathered by Philly by Air

Philly by Air’s study had some other interesting nuggets. Men use drones more than women by more than a 2:1 ratio – 24 percent vs. 10 percent.  The group most likely to own drones are aged between 35 and 44.

drone ownership data by age america us
Visualization and data gathered by Philly by Air

A spokesperson for Philly by Air said their survey results had a 2% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. Philly by Air’s results are largely in line with findings already made by research giant Pew. A 2017 study seeking drone ownership data found that 8% of Americans say they own a drone.

But 2020 survey results “in line” with a 2017 survey might actually be troubling — an indicator that drone use is not — and hasn’t been — growing.

DJI is rapidly deploying new versions of its models, like the DJI Mavic Air 2 to build on the Mavic Air or the DJI Mavic Mini to provide a lower-cost drone to consumers. And companies like Skydio are swooping in to capture consumers interested in its autonomous, crash-proof capabilities — particularly useful for action sports and complicated cinematography through products like the Skydio 2 drone.

But with ownership among households remaining flat for the past few years, it might give bullish industry experts pause. Drone ownership might be much bigger than people think, but it’s not growing — at least by this drone ownership data.

Leave a Reply