New study shows increases in UAS for commercial applications

By Patrick C. Miller | March 17, 2016

A study released this week by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College shows that despite economic and regulatory uncertainty in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry, businesses continue to seek reliable data sources.

Among the key findings, the study identified significant growth in the total number of different intended drone operations proposed by each commercial drone user, and a decline in the number of companies and individuals planning to use their drones for a single narrow purpose.

The report identifies Florida and Colorado as the most highly represented states in the drone industry relative to their share of the national population. “Our findings suggest a whole range of potentially fruitful avenues for further inquiry and present a number of intriguing questions with significant implications for the drone industry,” said Holland Michel.

The study also found a significant increase in the number of entities proposing to use drones for emergency services operations, and identified agriculture as a category that has lagged notably compared to forecasts for the sector.

The study provides a comprehensive analysis of the U.S. commercial drone services industry by examining nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration non-recreational drone use permits—Section 333 exemptions. According to the college, “Analysis of U.S. Drone Exemptions 2014–15” presents a variety of significant data-driven conclusions about the contours of the evolving industry landscape. The report is available for free online here.

“When it comes to the drone industry, the combination of a rapidly evolving technology with a complex rule-making process means that there is a great deal of uncertainty around even the near-term future of this sector,” said Arthur Holland Michel, co-director of the center and an author of the report.

The report, part of the center’s ongoing initiative to track the emerging drone industry in the United States, analyzes Section 333 data by geographical spread, unmanned aircraft type, exemption-granting rate and intended commercial operations.

Holland Michel said, “We have built a singular database that tracks these exemptions. Our analysis of this data will serve as an accessible go-to reference on the key features of this emerging industry.”


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