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CEA: 1 Million U.S. Drone Flights Daily by 2025

Global UAS market to reach $130 million this year

This article originally appeared in TV Technology.

There will be one million drones flights per day over U.S. soil by 2025, the Consumer Electronics Association predicts, “given the right regulatory environment.” The number comes the CEA’s Brian Markwalter, senior vice president of market research and standards, who shared the association’s domestic UAS economic analysis at the Unmanned Systems 2015 Conference in Atlanta this week.

“This is a billion-dollar technology market literally just waiting to take off,” Markwalter said. “We see a dynamic market with tremendous growth potential, once we have final Federal Aviation Administration rules to allow commercial UAS operation, combined with continued industry and FAA cooperation to achieve low-risk, beyond-line-of-sight flights.”

The CEA said that according to the research, the U.S. UAS market is growing, but risks falling behind in the global market due to domestic regulatory uncertainty. The CEA said its research estimated a pent-up market demand of $150 million to $200 million in UAS sales for line-of-sight operations. The specific source of the estimate was not mentioned, but commercial drone flight is not yet legal in the United States and allowed by only those with an FAA waiver. The agency is under Congressional directive to complete rules for commercial drone usage by September of this year.

With regard to the amateur market, UAS hobbyists fuel the U.S. consumer market with the potential to reach $250 million by 2018, the CEA said. They add another $200 million to the estimate should the FAA complete its line-of-sight rules on time. Additionally, with the continued development of “sense-and-avoid” technology and FAA rules that foster beyond-line-of-sight operations, the United States’ UAS industry could become a $1 billion market, CEA said. Beyond-line-of-sight fight is of interest to broadcasters, who requested the capability in a joint filing on the FAA’s drone docket. (See “Drone Rules Tweaks Sought for Night Flight, Over Bystanders, Beyond VLOS.”

“The ability for beyond-line-of-sight is the true game changer — opening the door to autonomous UAS operation and unleashing a remarkable economic potential,” Markwalter said “… Realizing these economic gains will require ongoing FAA and industry cooperation, as well as a commitment to the necessary infrastructure.”

According to CEA projections, the global market for consumer UAS will approach $130 million in revenue in 2015, increasing by more than 50% from 2014; with unit sales of consumer UAS expected to approach 425,000, an increase of 65%.

“Right now, more than 6 billion packages are delivered every year in the U.S., weighing less than three pounds apiece on average — perfect candidates for drone delivery,” Markwalter said. “The autonomous operation of UAS for the delivery of everyday items would not only lower the cost for consumers and improve delivery times, but also be a significant driver of our tech economy.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA, said, “With the right regulatory environment, drones will be safely integrated into our transportation system — displacing noisy trucks, reducing urban traffic, cutting our fuel consumption and carbon emissions. This will allow for game-changing innovations such as the quick delivery of life-saving diagnostics and medicine, improvements in crop production and efficiency, and safer work environments for those who inspect and maintain our buildings and bridges.”

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