We finished out the last year on The Drone Girl with a look back at some of the biggest drone stories of 2021. But we rang in a new year, which means time to look ahead. What products can we expect to hit the market? What policy stories will make the biggest impact? What companies are on the horizon? Given how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on especially the drone industry, I’m expecting momentum ahead for drones in 2022.
I put together a list of some of the things I’m most looking forward to in the coming year. Of course, this is far from comprehensive. And I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’ll surely miss many things. You can always weigh in on your hopes and predictions for drones in 2022 in the comments below as well.
And with that, here are the most exciting developments I look forward to seeing around drones in 2022:
Big things for remote ID
Remote ID has always been a hot topic in the drone industry, but a key development is set to kick in this year. New drones will need to be Remote ID compliant by Fall 2022.
That’s according to the Final Rule for Remote ID, which was announced in December 2020 and then went into effect in April 2021. The final rule for Remote ID was created to provide a structure for remotely identifying drones in flight and the location of their control stations. Theoretically, it should reduce the risk of drones interfering with each other, other aircraft or posing a risk to people and property on the ground.
But the FAA gave the drone industry time to get their house in order, in turn giving drone manufacturers 18 months to begin producing drones with Remote ID. But those 18 months are up by the second half of 2022, so new drones will need to be Remote ID compliant in Fall 2022.
And even still, don’t fret if you’re flying an old drone. Once Fall 2022 hits, you’ll still have an additional year before you’ll need to start using drones equipped with Remote ID, so you further have until Fall 2023 to upgrade or buy Remote ID-compliant drones.
More drone delivery tests in the U.S.
While drone delivery testing has been slow in uptick in the U.S. (most larger-scale trials have been happening in other countries, such as Wing’s work in Australia and Zipline’s work in a handful of African countries), that is set to change in 2022.
Beginning in 2022, Zipline (which is the largest drone delivery operator in the world) will begin delivering prescriptions and other healthcare products to people’s homes in the Salt Lake City area as part of a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, which is a Utah-based, not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, operating in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.
Competition for DJI consumer drones, particularly from Autel and Skydio
Skydio, the American drone company famous for its crash-proof, follow-me drone just held a wildly-good holiday promo, where it was offering up its Skydio 2 Starter kit at a $400 discount, bringing the formerly $1,349 drone + accessory kit down to just $949. That leads me to speculate that Skydio could have a new drone up its sleeve as it looks to offload inventory.
What’s more to add to this prediction is that Skydio got a recent influx of cash. The California-based company’s valuation topped $1 billion in March 2021 after a $170 million Series D funding round.
And then there’s another possible DJI competitor: Autel. Autel in 2021 announced two new drone series, the Autel EVO Nano and Autel EVO Lite drones. And in the last week of December 2021, Autel announced that the first model of its latest drones arrived at the US warehouse and more is to ship over the coming weeks to distributors globally. That means lots of drone pilots could have a new camera drone in their hands this month.
Competition for DJI enterprise-level drones too, particularly from Sony
While those drones are largely consumer focused, those aren’t the only camera drones to be excited about. The highly anticipated Sony Airpeak S1 drone was made available for pre-order at the end of 2021, targeting professional photography and video production. The drone is capable of carrying the company’s Alpha mirrorless cameras and is seen as appealing among professional filmmakers who either prefer Sony’s existing equipment, or are looking to fly a drone made by a company other than DJI.
Like the new Autel drones, expect this drone to be in drone pilot’s hands — and subsequently in the skies — in the first half of 2022.
A ridiculously fun live drone racing event in Vegas
I sincerely hope this becomes more of a frequent thing: live, high-quality drone races that are easily accessible to the general public. Luckily, Drone Racing League is doing it!
The Drone Racing League (DRL) will host its DRL Algorand World Championship Season 2021-22 finale race at an outdoor course along the Las Vegas strip at T-Mobile Arena, in coincidence with the opening night of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Wednesday, Jan, 5, 2022 — also in Vegas.
As long as Omicron doesn’t disrupt plans, this event could draw huge crowds. Plus, attendance is free and open to the public (though you need to register for tickets in advance here).
If successful, this could kick off a wave of public, highly-produced drone races across the country. And there’s another reason to believe it should. In December 2021, the Drone Racing League announced that it became accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration as the nation’s first unmanned aircraft systems event organizer.
An emphasis on marketing and sales
Expect drone companies to devote most of their budgets this year to ramping up sales through more (and better) marketing. Drone analytics company Drone Industry Insights asked representatives from drone companies what they prioritize when it comes to resource allocation as part of its annual Drone Industry Barometer 2021. The leading resource allocation: marketing and sales. 29% of representatives said that was a priority for them, outpacing other areas like product or staff development.
Here was the complete breakdown:
- Marketing & sales (29%)
- Product development (software) (20%)
- Product development (hardware) (18%)
- Staff development (15%)
- Finances & funding (13%)
- Other (6%)
An emphasis on marketing could be crucial in gaining further mainstream acceptance for the drone industry and making drones more widespread.
What developments are you hoping to see as far as things go for drones in 2022? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!