The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that the number of drones flying in the sky will reach up to 7 million by the year 2020.
In a newly released report, the agency provides forecasts for the air carrier industry for 2016 to 2036. Aside from domestic and international flight passenger predictions, the report also included the growing sector of unmanned aircraft or drones.
Predicted Sales Of Drones
For 2016, the FAA forecasts that the annual sales transactions involving drones may potentially reach up to 1.9 million. Such number may increase by about 4.3 million units every year until the year 2020.
Having said that, drones sold by the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 may reach up to 2.3 million, 2.9 million, 3.5 million and 4.3 million respectively. Such numbers are for drones used by hobbyists or what is also known as model aircraft.
The number for commercial, non-model aircraft is a much lesser. FAA predicts that these types of drones will have higher sales, with 0.6 million and 2.5 million for the years 2016 and 2017 respectively; 2.6 million each for the years 2018 and 2019; and 2.7 million units in 2020.
Combining the numbers, the total number of possible drones flying in the skies by 2020 will reach up to 7 million.
Registration Rules To Ensure Safety And Efficiency
The data above is based on the trend of a registration rule that the FAA set up to identify drone owners and ensure that aircraft operators are aware of the unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
UAS is the system behind unmanned aircraft and is associated with elements such as communication links and control systems to operate the aircraft. Such system is required so that drones can safely and efficiently fly in the national airspace system (NAS).
On Dec. 14, 2015, FAA implemented a rule necessitating all UAS that weigh more than 0.55 pounds but less than 55 pounds to register in a new online system. Such rule will enable the agency to have better investigations when necessary and keep track of UAS use.
"As of mid-March, 2016 there have been over 408,000 registrations," the report states [pdf].
Drone Accidents And FAA Action
While drones are helpful in various fields such as agricultural research, safety monitoring and many others, it does not come without danger. Take for example the recent incident of a drone that nearly collided with a Lufthansa jet near the L.A. airport.
In another report by the FAA, the agency was able to record 583 drone incidents from August 2015 to January of this year. Most of the incidents though are not highly dangerous and commonly involve pilots or bystanders reporting that drones are flying in restricted areas.
The FAA has already started an educational campaign called "Know Before You Fly," which advocates the safe and responsible use of drones as it fly through NAS. Such campaign now has a mobile app called B4UFLY, which provides aircraft operators with airspace requirements and restriction details prior to flying drones.