Last week we shared sobering news for the drone industry after an analysis of data from research and insights firm Drone Analyst found that 2019 growth on the consumer side of things grew at a minuscule 6%. But that little growth might be a moot point for businesses with their eyes set on drones. After all, the commercial drone industry is where the money is at — and it’s growing at a steady pace.
While commercial drones still make up just 23% of the total U.S. drone fleet, the portion of drones used for commercial purposes is growing, according to Drone Analyst’s “Historical Performance of the American UAS Industry” report, which was released in August 2020.
Just 18% of drones in 2018 were commercial, while it’s up to 23% in 2019. And by those metrics, the commercial drone fleet grew by 39% from 2018 to 2019 (the consumer drone fleet grew by just 6%).
That 39% growth is far from the gargantuan growth seen in some years — though experts say that’s to be expected.
“Previous years of 100% growth are impossible to maintain without new regulations enabling additional use cases,” according to the Drone Analyst report.
And good news for industry players who make products used by pilots: expect spending to increase. According to another survey published in The State of the Drone Market report, which was conducted by drone software company DroneDeploy of more than 140 customers, 53% of respondents said they expected to increase their spend on drones and drone
software in 2020, compared to just 4.9% who thought it would decline.
And by some measures, the commercial drone industry is growing at its fastest rate yet. For example, 2019 saw record levels of investment into drones, primarily through venture capital investment. Last year, more than $1.2 billion was invested in drones across 157 investment deals. And LAANC authorizations —which can serve as a proxy for rate of drone flights, as they’re required for commercial pilots who want automatic approval to fly in certain controlled airspace — are also at record highs.
What’s more, commercial drone industry growth has sharply exceeded the Federal Aviation Administration’s expectations.
“As we see hardware players shift from the consumer market to commercial, it will be critical to see how this impacts growth in years to come,” according to the Drone Analyst report.
That growth looks set to continue into 2020, particularly as coronavirus seems to have had no negative impact on the drone industry. In some ways, the pandemic has been a positive in the drone industry, creating opportunities in drone delivery, at-home STEM education, public safety, crowd control and more. And according to DroneDeploy’s State of the Drone Market 2020 report, 92% of respondents said they expect drones to become more common in their industry by 2020.