CTA: Drones will be part of record year ahead

By Luke Geiver | January 05, 2017

The U.S. consumer technology industry will reach $292 billion in retail revenues in 2017 driven in part by the sale of small unmanned aircraft vehicles, according to recently released research from the Consumer Technology Association.

As consumers continue to favor connected technology and the Internet of Things, emerging technology—including drones—will drive the growth trends in technology. “Our forecast reinforces our belief that connectivity is going to be one of the driving trends of our time,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA. “More and more consumers are discovering the remarkable benefits connected products deliver.”

In 2017, connected devices will reach 600 million units sold, a record high total and a five percent year over year increase from 2016, CTA’s research said. The main emerging technologies in 2017 are smart homes, digital assistant devices, 4K ultra high-definition video, virtual reality and drones.

This year, drone sales will top 3.4 million units—a 40 percent increase from the previous year. For the first time, drone revenue will top $1 billion—a 46 percent increase. According to the CTA, drones weighing less than a pound or 250 grams will total 2 million units sold and drones weighing more than 250 grams will reach 1.3 million units.

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for CTA, said 2017 will be a year “where many of these emerging tech categories find their footing and really take off.”

While emerging tech offerings will expand in 2017, mainstay technologies such as televisions and tablets will undergo various trend changes. Smartphone unit volume will grow three percent to reach 185 million smartphones sold. By 2020, unit growth should slow, according to CTA, after hardware better meets the average user’s computing demands and replacement cycles lengthen.

Televisions went through their best year ever in 2016, but the same trend may not continue in 2017. 4K televisions will make-up the new growth models for the technology sector.

Although Tablets are one of the best performing categories in terms of total volume after five years of momentous adoption, CTA said, near-term adoption has decreased and replacement cycles have slowed. In 2017, tablet sales will decline by five percent and and revenues will follow by 8 percent.

Laptops will reach 27 million units this year, remaining steady with the same volume seen last year. Convertible models will push growth in the coming years, CTA said.

Desktops will continue to experience structural declines. Unit sales will total 6.7 million (a 7 percent decrease from the previous year) and an 8 percent decrease in revenue, reaching $3.9 billion.