- Growth in Government and Commercial Use – Infrastructure and agricultural applications will continue to lead commercial growth. Unmanned aircraft are vital to sustaining the nation’s aging infrastructure, from inspecting bridges and pipelines to prioritizing the repair of critical works in the aftermath of natural disasters. Drones are increasingly utilized to combat the effects of climate change, giving farmers additional tools for monitoring water needs and crop health, and giving firefighters the ability to better coordinate wildfire response efforts.
- Effects of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Rule Changes – In April 2021, the FAA loosened its rules for commercial operations of small drones (those weighing less than 55 lbs). Previously, such unmanned aircraft were generally not allowed to fly over people, fly at night, or be out of the line of sight of the operator without an FAA waiver. Now, these drones can operate at concerts, sporting events, and for security purposes, albeit with certain constraints. Watch for new players and more dollars in e-commerce package delivery via drones in coming years.
- A Potential $64 Billion Industry Primed for Investment – Just as the FAA’s last major rule change in 2016 helped fuel commercial drone operations, the regulator’s 2021 changes may encourage even greater market growth. With predictions that the global drone industry will be worth around $64 billion by 2025, analysts expect more investors will participate.
- NASA’s Aircraft and Drone Traffic Management System – NASA’s Air Traffic Management eXploration project aims to smoothly integrate more and more drones into a crowded U.S. airspace. Safety, both for manned aircraft and persons on the ground, will be paramount to continued growth of the commercial drone industry, especially over urban areas.
- Reduced Insurance Premiums Driving Mainstream Adoption – Utilities and other companies are rethinking how they perform inspections, maintenance, and repairs – especially when replacing risky manned activities with drones can substantially reduce a company’s general liability insurance premiums. Imagine using a flying camera to safely inspect high-voltage power lines from the ground instead of trying to hover a helicopter close enough for a lineman – sitting on the skids – to have a proper look. This tactic will soon be deployed whenever possible, such as in the construction industry which has benefited from time and cost savings during required visual site inspections.
About the Author and Practice:
Greenberg Traurig shareholder Todd Basile helps technology companies and investors protect and commercialize their innovations across a wide range of industries including software, robotics, autonomous vehicles, medical devices, and aerospace. The Emerging Technology Group at Greenberg Traurig is a multidisciplinary legal team focused on representing entrepreneurs and investors. We guide emerging technology companies through all the stages of their development, from initial business formation through angel, venture capital and cross-over financings to initial public offerings and exit transactions. In addition, we advise institutional investors in their investments into innovative companies at all stages and across industries.