Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

U.S. Says 7 Million Drones Will Take to Skies Annually by 2020

  • FAA add unmanned aircraft sales to annual aviation forecast
  • Agency sees 2.5 million sold this year for hobby and business

Annual sales of drones in the U.S. will hit 2.5 million this year and swell to 7 million by 2020, according to a projection from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Unmanned aircraft purchases are growing both for hobbyists and for commercial ventures that perform inspections, assist farmers, and survey construction sites, according to the agency’s annual forecast of aviation activity, released on Thursday.

While the FAA isn’t expected to issue regulations allowing commercial uses of drones until later this year, it’s granted more than 4,100 exemptions for businesses flying unmanned craft. The initial regulations would allow limited flights during the day and within sight of an operator on the ground, according to the agency. The agency expects to later issue regulations allowing flights over longer distances and for purposes such as delivering products to people’s homes.

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