2017 marked a big year for the commercial drone industry; for starters, it was the first full year of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 operating license. Now, there are over 70,000 pilots flying drones all over the skies for all sorts of purposes and applications. But since the start, the only consistent thing about the commercial drone industry has been its rapid (and radical) changes, and 2018 is sure to see even more revolution.
In 2018, in the commercial drone industry, we can expect to see:
Drone Operations Moving Back In-House. In the beginning, many companies were hiring freelance drone operators to offset risk, cost and the regulatory burden of flying. Unfortunately for those freelance pilots, they did such a great job flying drones and gathering data (or completing difficult missions) that the companies saw a lot of value in having their very own drone program. With the regulatory burden slightly lifted, many companies will start to build their own in-house drone programs this year.
Commercial Drones will have Remote ID Systems. While this issue has certainly been hotly discussed (and contested), it seems likely that the FAA will create a mandate that if you are not a drone hobbyist operator then you will have to identify yourself remotely.
Consumers will (in Some Locations) have More Products Delivered by Drone. Trump’s Executive Order (a seeming attempt to circumvent the lengthy rule-making process) may in all of its chaos actually allow companies (likely in a specific town or resort area) to offer more options for drone delivery. We may start to see pizzas flying in the skies.
So while 2017 was a big year for the drone industry, it seems like 2018 may bring even more change for this growing (and thriving) industry.