By 2020, there could be 7 million drones sold in the U.S. — that’s means about one drone for every resident of Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada and Kansas combined.
“Just like last year, drones were one of the hottest gift items this past holiday season, but unlike a lot of holiday gifts, this one is clearly not a fad,” Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta said during a speech Friday at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“And the pace of change is breathtaking,” he said. “It seems like someone is coming up with a new way to use drones every day.”
The FAA made a number of changes in 2016 to integrate drones into the U.S. airspace. The Part 107 rule in August allows people to fly drones for commercial purposes as long as they obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. In the four months since this rule went into effect, more than 30,000 people have started the Remote Pilot Application process. About 16,000 have taken the Remote Pilot Knowledge Exam, and almost 90 percent have passed, according to the FAA.
2016 was also the first full year of drone registration. In the past year, more than 670,000 drone users have registered aircraft – including more than 37,000 during the last two weeks of December.
Huerta said that the FAA’s next steps will be allowing drones to fly over people. Currently, drones cannot fly over people without applying for and receiving a waiver, which means applications like package delivery in urban areas are not possible.