Tags: faa | drones | air | space

FAA Predicts 10,000 Drones in Five Years

Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 02:22 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The FAA predicts there could be 10,000 drones in the air over the United States within the next five years and is working closely with commercial stakeholders to define operational and certification requirements.

“Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and serve many purposes,” states a Federal Aviation Administration report assessing prospects for the industry. “Some have wingspans as large as a Boeing 737 and some are smaller than a radio-controlled model airplane.”

In the United States alone, more than 50 companies and organizations are producing 155 unmanned aircraft devices, the FAA report notes. Market research is projecting annual growth of 12 percent for the drone military market, but the growth may go even higher than that.

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“There's just too much uncertainty,” Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group, which monitors the aerospace industry, told CBS News last week. “There will be applications when the FAA opens up the airspace. The first ones will be law enforcement, then civilian.”

The FAA is in the process of developing new policies and procedures for the drone flights, and the Teal Group forecasts there will be more than $94 billion in total drone spending over the next decade.

Because many of the drones will be used for nonmilitary purposes, such as law enforcement and research, the FAA is working closely with the UAS community to come up with operational standards and requirements, the report said.

“It is critical to develop and validate appropriate operational procedures, regulatory standards, and policies,” the FAA said.

The agency has created an Unmanned Aircraft Program office to oversee the use of drones. It also has asked the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, a private corporation that develops recommendations on communications, navigation, and air-traffic management systems for the government and private industry, to help with developing standards.

The FAA said there are many ways for companies to generate revenue from the use of drones, noting that the industry has “the potential to be a significant component in commercial aviation.”

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