Drone industry participants are more optimistic about the future of where drones are headed as of late. But that’s not to say there won’t be any challenges for drones in 2024.
The folks over at Drone Industry Insights have given us reason to be optimistic, while also illuminating what things are holding back the drone industry. That’s spelled out in DII’s 2023 Global Drone Industry Survey, which surveyed 1,113 drone industry participants across 85 countries. The report, released in August 2023, can be downloaded here.
And with that, here are some of the most encouraging things about drones to come — and some of the biggest challenges for drones in 2024:
2023 has been a rough year for business with high interest rates making the cost of borrowing money unaffordable for small businesses. Inflation has made things more expensive. And the stock market hasn’t done much to incite optimism going forward.
But in the drone industry, optimism does in fact prevail. DII’s survey gives an “optimism score,” and this year’s score is 6.6. That’s higher than the global average of just 6.3 that the 2022 version of the same survey established. Sure, that’s lower than the pandemic-induced high expectations of 2022, but DII says that’s healthy, reflecting what it calls a “more realistic outlook.”
“The new high expectations for 2023 reflect a balanced perspective on the industry’s potential for growth and innovation,” according to a DII statement.
Challenges for drones in 2024
That balanced perspective is alluding to the things that can’t be ignored — the challenges for drones in 2024.
DII’s survey sought to establish what those top challenges are, and the key challenge is around regulatory obstacles. There are all sorts of regulatory obstacles worldwide, particularly around issues like drone traffic management (UTM), and legalizing flights beyond line of sight or over people.
See all the challenges cited here:
In the U.S., regulation around Remote ID has proven challenging — and confusing. The final rule for Remote ID was set to be enforced on September 13, but that Remote ID enforcement deadline has been extended for a number of reasons, including module availability. (By the way, I spoke directly with the FAA on its 2024 Remote ID enforcement plans here.)
But it’s not all for naught. We have already seen big headwinds in the area of cutting back on regulatory obstacles, such as when the Federal Aviation Administration approved four companies this summer (Phoenix Air Unmanned, UPS Flight Forward, uAvionix and Zipline) to operate select drones without a visual observer watching the drone’s every move. And on the UTM front, some governments are already settling on UTM solutions (and other UTM companies are making big headwinds to further their legitimacy).
In that same vein, DII’s survey asked respondents to rank the top market-driving factors, and once again it’s rule-making authorities — a factor that has increased to 52% from just 45% last year.
Of course, other challenges have been the aforementioned inflation and economic cycles. Domestic politics have also been challenging, such as when China imposed restrictions on exports of long-range civilian drones, when India banned imported drones and when some U.S. politicians created the American Security Drone Act of 2023, a bipartisan bill that would prohibit federal agencies from purchasing drones made by Chinese government-linked countries.