Which countries collected the most drone flight hours in 2023?

The bean counters might care about how many drones are sold — but what about how many drone flight hours are actually racked up?

Especially when it comes to lower-cost drones, they sometimes aren’t flown very many hours at all after the people buying them realize that drone flying is a bit more complicated than they might’ve thought in terms of where they can fly and getting registered — and after the novelty wears off.

Drone Industry Insights (DII), a German-based analytics group analyzing the drone industry, sought to find out which countries actually fly drones the most. In its latest Drone Utilization Report, DII looked at data around the number of commercial units sold, number of drones operating commercially, total number of flights and the amount of flight hours accumulated.

DII’s definition of “commercial units” certainly encompasses professional drones (which it defines as drones that cost more than $10,000), but also encompasses consumer drones. Additionally, the DII report only honed in on the top country markets (which it considers to be China, USA, Australia, Japan, Germany, UK, Canada, Brazil, France and South Korea). And with that, DII put together a map representing drone flight hours by country:

flight hours DII 2023

Based on DII’s reporting, China is the leader in terms of drone use across both VLOS and BVLOS drone flights. And China indeed has been delivering on drone flights — especially recently in ways that no other countries have.

For example, in August 2023, the DJI FlyCart 30 came to market as a $17,000 ready-to-fly delivery drone, but it’s only available in China. Then in November 2023, DJI launched the DJI Agras T60 as an impressive precision agriculture drone. Once again, it’s only available in China.

In number two comes the United States, which has many BVLOS, but relatively far fewer BVLOS drone flights. Though, the rate of BVLOS drone flights in the U.S. could very well increase as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been issuing more BVLOS waivers (the FAA has issued more than 200 BVLOS waivers thus far, including 18 in October 2023 alone and more than a dozen in November 2023). Approvals have been coming in at a generally more rapidly clip, including some significant waivers issued this past fall. The FAA is currently in the process of reviewing the BVLOS final report.

Here are some other, relatedly-interesting figures and facts that DII came to estimate:

  • A projected total of 7.6 million drone flight hours will be recorded worldwide by the end of 2023.
  • 20,822 flight hours per day are clocked on average worldwide.
  • By region, the top leader in terms of total flight events and flight hours is Asia.
  • By average number of flights per drone operator, the leader is Oceania.
  • VLOS operations are much more common than BVLOS operations.
  • Energy/Utilities industry has the highest use of drone technology.

Learn more about drone flight hours by country over at DII’s Drone Utilization Report.

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