Consumer drone sales expected to skyrocket in coming decade

By Patrick C. Miller | January 21, 2016

By 2025, sales of drones to the consumer market are expected to exceed 90 million units and generate $4.6 billion in revenue, according to ABI Research, a technology market intelligence firm in Oyster Bay, New York.

ABI said that in 2014, there were 4.9 million drone sales, but the predicted increase in drone sales will create a compound annual growth rate of 30.4 percent over the next 10 years.

The company’s research findings show that toy and hobbyist drone shipments accounted for 30 percent of consumer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) revenue in 2014, while the prosumer segment captured 69 percent. ABI anticipates that toy and hobbyist drone revenue will surpass prosumer UAV revenue beginning next year, and will account for more than two-thirds of the $4.6 billion consumer drone market in 2025.

“For the study period, the overwhelming majority of consumer UAVs shipped will be toy/hobbyist UAVs, followed by prosumer UAVs, while kits and custom UAVs will remain a small market,” said Phil Solis, ABI’s research director. “Overall, growth in the consumer drone sector will remain strong, spurred by the creation of new use cases and the adoption of the technological advancements generated by well-funded market leaders such as DJI, 3DR, Parrot, and Yuneec, among others.”

ABI’s report found that as the complexity of technology in the toy and hobbyist segment increases, consumer UAVs with at least one camera can expect higher shipments than those without any cameras from 2019 onward. These cameras will not be limited to photos and video, but will also be used for machine-vision applications, such as motion tracking, obstacle avoidance and other advanced functions, the company said.

“It will be interesting to watch what happens as consumer UAV technology continues to evolve,” Solis said. “The future challenge will lie in finding ways to keep the products interesting. By transforming consumer UAVs into flying smartphone-like platforms, product vendors will be able to add innovative technological functionality into the devices with an eye on more open application development to enable innovative use cases. This will enable products to hold consumers’ interest longer, increase product value, and expand product lifespan.”

Additional information from the report posted on ABI’s website indicates that features in prosumer UAVs—similar to smaller, lower-cost commercial UAVs—will quickly trickle down into the toy and hobbyist segment. It noted that companies such as Qualcomm are customizing highly integrated smartphone platforms and adding flight control software, enabling the value of these products to increase immensely.

“Lower priced products with cutting edge features, sensors, and software will be available,” according to ABI. “New UAV platforms will shift from customized designs to more open platforms and allow developers to create software add-ons that will prolong the interest people have in them.”


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