Drone Market Forecast: What a Difference a Year Makes

Business Insider has released a new drone market forecast, and the estimates keep rising.  BI Intelligence predicts that the potential for the drone market will top $12 billion by 2021, as recreational drones become more popular and the regulatory environment calms down.

Dronelife.com reported on Business Insider’s 2015 drone market report at this same time last year, and the two reports show what a difference a year has made in the industry.

BI’s 2015 report  expected the commercial drone market to take shape this year, saying that “heavily restricted commercial UAV flights will become routine…”  but stating that e-commerce and drone delivery wouldn’t be an early focus of the industry.  This has largely turned out to be true, as regulations have not shifted over the last year and still prevent drone delivery from becoming a reality: but the commercial drone market has grown beyond expectations.  Last year’s report said that “Few people know that many companies are already authorized to fly small drones commercially under a US government “exemption” program.”  The current list of over 3,700 exemptions was a surprise to most analysts, as a flood of investment and pressure from industry has pushed the FAA to speed up the exemption process.

The overall forecasts have risen significantly, with analysts now expecting drone sales to exceed $12 billion in 2021, rising from over $8 billion last year; and the types of drones that make up the market has shifted.   They expect shipments of consumer drones to quadruple over the next five years, as the consumer drone market gains momentum and drones become easier to fly.  The commercial drone market is still dependent upon the FAA to open regulations, but the experts appear hopeful that it will happen: “Growth in the enterprise sector will outpace the consumer sector in both shipments and revenues as regulations open up new use cases in the US and EU, the two biggest potential markets for enterprise drones.”

One significant difference between the two forecasts year over year is in the military drone market.  In 2015, analysts forecast that the military drone business would slow, allowing the consumer and commercial markets to outstrip it. “Most growth in the drone industry is on the commercial/civilian side, as the shift away from the military market gains momentum.” the report stated.  The 2016 report revises that view, stating that “the military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending during our forecast period thanks to the high cost of military drones and the growing number of countries seeking to acquire them.”

By Miriam McNabb