Commercial US drone market to grow to four times its present size by 2022.


The FAA expects America’s commercial drone fleet to be the largest growing drone market over the next few years, growing to at least four times its present size over the next five years – with more than 450,000 drones in the market by 2022.

The number of registered drones in commercial operations in the US increased 150% last year compared to 2016 and is expected to keep up the rapid growth.

According to the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems forecast, 110,604 commercial drones were registered in 2017, exceeding the FAA’s expected figure of 108,000. In 2016, only 42,000 drones were registered.

Drones are also getting bigger. Right now, the consumer-grade commercial drones (priced below $10,000) make up almost the entire of the commercial fleet, with a 98% market share. The FAA expects this share to drop to below 90% by 2022, with the professional-grade drone market (those valued above $10,000 and an average price of $25,000) growing approximately five times by 2022.

2017 (Actual)110,604110,604

Commercial-drone registration was launched in the US in April 2016 and, since then, more than 110,000 companies have registered at least one drone as of 2017. For every week commercial registration has been available, more than 1,000 new drones have been registered.


The number of non-commercial drones is also expected to grow. FAA now expects the number of drones registered in the US to double over the next five years, reaching a median figure of 2.4 million units ,with a high estimate of 3.17 million.

The FAA expects the drone market to saturate gradually over the next five years and beyond – expecting the mass adoption and saturation of drones to mimic that of other mass-produced new consumer technologies such as cell phones and video game consoles.

YearLow estimateBase estimateHigh estimate
2017 (Actual)

The regulation problem

On both fronts, the drone market will grow dramatically over the next five years. But the biggest issue standing in the way is the lack of enforced regulations.

Right now, the only real regulation in the US for drones is the registration requirement, and even that is not properly enforced, with the FAA having only once taken legal action against a single owner for failing to register a drone.

Also, there are no real airspace laws for drones and, as they can fly at similar altitudes to those of low-altitude helicopters, this could be an accident waiting to happen.

In fact, an accident is exactly what people expect to happen. On the Sunday before Heli Expo 2018, a group of the movers-and-shakers in the helicopter financing space met to discuss what would need to be done for the drone market to be properly regulated. The consensus throughout the room was that there would have to be a ‘catastrophic’ accident involving a drone to help kickstart a need for more solid regulations.