To date, there are over 500,000 registered drones in the U.S., and there are over 20,000 registered commercial operators of drones. The FAA advises that over 3,300 people signed up to take the aeronautical knowledge test, which is one of the new requirements to operate a drone in the U.S. The FAA estimates that more than 600,000 commercial drones could be in operation by 2017.
These clear statistics and projects are the first quantifiable evidence to support the 100,000 jobs and $82 billion-dollar economy that drones represent. The evidence is overwhelming at this point that drone will be a de-facto part of our lives soon. Although the 100,000 jobs and $82 billion-dollar economy number has been projected in the past, the registrations and number of companies that are being registered with the FAA offer massive potential for drones. Some people in government and business have concerns about this growth and potential; there are already many different applications that are on the horizon.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have already delivered medicine to remote areas, delivered burritos to hungry college students as well as being used to detect radiation and chemical leaks. Current FAA rules require that drones remain within line of sight of the operator, the testing of UAV that operate beyond the line of sight are already being tested in The Netherlands. Nokia is already working on technology to allow automatic flight control that can operate independently of a line-of-sight operator. Nokia is working on an App that will allow for drone operations that can monitor drones in real time.
Furthermore, the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy had a joint exercise in October where the navies of these nations tested unmanned, unarmed surface, underwater, and aerial vehicles. With all this activity both commercially and with different militaries, is it any wonder that there appears to be a lot of potential in the future of UAV.
Given all this activity by many of the major players in multiple industries, there is no doubt that the world of the drone is changing and changing rapidly. Technology is moving forward faster than governments can legislate, making enforcement even more difficult. However, this burning innovation will certainly help bring home many new technologies that will improve our lives. The concern of some is how will these new technologies impact our future freedoms. The nature and activities of drones and the impact on freedom remain an open question for the future.