By Andy Pasztor
U.S. regulators expect the number of commercial drones and people flying them to quadruple over the next five years, the latest positive indicator for the burgeoning industry.
Updated FAA numbers released last week project about 450,000 such unmanned aerial vehicles will be operating in domestic airspace by 2022, versus today’s roughly 110,000. That increase is anticipated even if federal restrictions are loosened more slowly than growth advocates desire.
The agency also sees the ranks of commercial-drone pilots climbing past 300,000 over the same period, up from roughly 70,000 currently. Under what the FAA considers the most likely scenario, both the number of commercial drones and their pilots are anticipated to substantially exceed totals for private aviators and associated manned aircraft.
If drone deregulation gains as much traction as White House, FAA and industry officials envision, the agency estimates overall commercial-drone numbers could top 600,000 by the start of the next decade, about three times the country’s general aviation fleet.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.