Goldman Sachs recently wrote a report detailing the drone market and its main three categories: military, consumer, and commercial. Military is the largest of these segments due to the enormous surveillance and remote capabilities of drones. Consumer, the next largest segment, represents hobbyists and photographers who enjoy having the latest technology at their disposal. The commercial drone segment, has the potential for the fastest growth due to the gradual relaxation of the FAA Part 107 regulation. The applications for the commercial drone market span from agricultural inspection to real estate assessment to a whole host of other applications.
What will spur the enormous growth within the commercial drone market? The FAA has slowly revised Part 107, the regulation written to regulate UAVs that many industry experts consider to be too harsh and innovation stifling. Recently the FAA eased Part 107 specifically for commercial drone operators. Before, a pilot would have to declare a planned flight 24 hours in advance but now pilots can fly at will as long as it is in eligible airspace, within sight, and under 400 feet in altitude. When the FAA decides to lift the within eyesight regulation, the drone market stands to benefit in a big way. No longer will a pilot have to fly crop circles in the field, he or she could fly from the comfort of an office. Furthermore, a drone pilot could cover an almost infinitely greater acreage because he or she would no longer have to contend with the curvature of the earth, as is the case with current part 107 compliant flights.
Some drone companies on the market today restrict their users ability to fly in certain areas and set a ceiling preprogrammed in the drone’s flight controller in an effort to stay Part 107 compliant. These overarching limits accomplish little and frustrate many. Experienced drone hobbyists and operators have seen success removing the programmed limitations from out-of-the-box drones.
The prospects for the commercial drone market are fascinating and for that reason many companies, analysts, customers, and operators watch closely as it changes and the FAA reforms its policies.