- The Federal Aviation Association believes drones will fill the skies by 2021, Reuters reported Wednesday, partly thanks to recent rules allowing small-sized drones for use in education, research and routine commercial undertakings.
- While the use of drones as delivery agents beyond the sight of an operator remains under regulatory discussion, commercial drones are likely to grow from approximately 42,000 in 2016 to 442,000 — or even 1.6 million — by 2021. The difference depends on how quickly regulatory agencies allow the technology.
- The White House estimated last year unmanned aircraft could cause up to $82 billion in economic growth by 2025 and generate 100,000 jobs. Already, more than 300 waivers for drone use have been granted to companies like Union Pacific, BNSF Railway and Intel.
Drones are perpetually touted as the next big thing, despite space and privacy regulations severely limiting their scope. Yet with the promise of reduced regulation from the Trump administration, it may be that drones finally pass the value test.
Proof of drones' serviceability has long been been evident, and supply chains appear poised to benefit the most. Early drone tests show they can be used in construction sites, warehouses, railroads, for last-mile delivery and even in stores. In fact, 7-Eleven is already piloting the technology for home delivery. Similarly, a Johns Hopkins University professor is testing the technology for store delivery of medical provisions; and most recently, Wal-Mart patented the technology for last-foot delivery within its big box stores.
Yet, it could be a while before Wal-Mart or other shoppers actually see them in use. Safety of the skies, security and privacy concerns have led some to question whether the technology should be widespread at all.
However, that the Federal Aviation Administration anticipates more widespread adoption and pinpoints regulation as the limiting factor should be a good sign for drone enthusiasts. What remains to be seen is just how quickly an anti-regulation administration will remove the limiting rules already in place.