The forecast also highlights the phenomenal growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), often referred to as drones. The FAA projects the small model UAS fleet to grow from 1.2 million vehicles in 2018 to 1.4 million in 2023, an average annual growth rate of 2.2 percent. The commercial, small non-model UAS fleet is forecast to nearly triple from 277,386 in 2018 to 835,211 in 2023, an average annual growth rate of 24.7 percent.
In addition to UAS, another rapidly growing aerospace field is commercial space transportation. The FAA, which licenses and regulation this industry, projects that commercial space launch and re-entry operations will increase from 35 in 2018 to an estimated 56 in 2021.
The FAA aerospace forecast is the industry-wide standard of measurement of U.S. aviation-related activities. The agency uses data, trends and other factors to develop the forecast, including generally accepted economic projections, surveys and information sent by the airlines to the DOT. Additionally, the scope of the report looks at all facets of aviation including commercial air travel, air cargo and private general aviation.
UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM (UAS) FORECASTS
- The small model UAS fleet is forecast to grow in size from 1.2 million vehicles in 2018 to 1.4 million units in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the fivc-year forecast period is 2.2 percent.
- The FAA has also developed high and low ranges around the small model UAS fleet forecast reflecting uncertainty about the publics’ continued adoption of this new technology.
- In the high case, the small model UAS fleet by 2023 is about 1.7 million units. In the low case, the small model UAS fleet by 2023 is about 1.3 million units.
- The commercial, small non-model UAS fleet is forecast to grow from 277,386 in 2018 to 835,211 in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 24.7 percent.
- The FAA’s small non-model (commercial) UAS fleet size forecast contains certain broad assumptions about operating limitations for small UAS during the next five years based on the basic constraints of the existing regulations including daytime operations, within visual line of sight, and a single pilot operating only one small UAS at a time. The main difference in the high and base forecasts is the differing assumptions on how quickly the regulatory environment will evolve, enabling the more widespread routine uses of UAS for commercial purposes.
- In a high case, the small non-model fleet is 1.3 million in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 36.0 percent.
- The number of remote pilots are forecast to increase from 116,027 in 2018 to 349,358 in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 24.7 percent.