Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The FAA's New Aerospace Forecast Report Is Bullish On UAS

In a press release dated March 24, 2016, the FAA announced that it has released its annual Aerospace Forecast Report Fiscal Years 2016 to 2036 which finds a sustained increase in overall air travel during that period of time.  The Forecast also finds a sustained increase in the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The press release states that :
A key portion of the forecast focuses on projections for the growth in the use of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. The FAA estimates small, hobbyist UAS purchases may grow from 1.9 million in 2016 to as many as 4.3 million by 2020.  Sales of UAS for commercial purposes are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2020.  Combined total hobbyist and commercial UAS sales are expected to rise from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020.
Predictions for small UAS used in the commercial fleet are more difficult to develop given the dynamic, quickly-evolving nature of the market. Both sales and fleet size estimates share certain broad assumptions about operating limitations for small UAS during the next five years: daytime operations, within visual line of sight, and a single pilot operating only one small UAS at a time.  The main difference in the high and low end of the forecasts is differing views on how those limitations will influence the widespread use of UAS for commercial purposes.
See the press release with a link to the Forecast here.

While government projections must always be taken with a grain of regulatory salt, it is important to note that sales of UAS for commercial purposes will not grow without the promulgation of the rules governing he commercial use of drones.  The eagerly –awaited Report of the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) which reportedly has been submitted to the FAA should provide a window into the strategy of the FAA to craft the new rules for commercial UAS and perhaps also shed some light on a possible timetable for the issuance of said rules, the rulemaking for which is now more than  thirteen months old.    

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