One of our specialties is using various rules of thumb to predict what is happening in the consumer drone market. You can find a number of our predictions and projections in our Editorial Section.
We have recently been asked by various industry parties (reporters, analysts, etc.) to comment on the US Drone market going forward. No one has a crystal ball and/or a truly accurate forecast but there are many metrics which can be used to come to reasonable projections. However, these often become confusing due to the way that most classify (or fail to classify) consumer drones. Let’s start with some basics so we can define the scope of the particular market that we (Droneflyers and much of the drone press) are covering.
Camera Drones are really the Primary Consumer RTF Market in 2016
A few short years ago, the idea of taking very stable video and pictures from a low cost drone was a dream. Those of us in the hobby rigged up various systems and were amazed when something turned out reasonably well. When we first saw truly stable video it was a shock. Now, just 2 years later, it not only is expected but has become the driving force in the consumer drone industry.
This being the case, we prefer to segment the consumer camera drone market as “purpose built stabilized drones capable of autonomy of flight (GPS) which sell for $400 – $1500.
Other industry writers tend to lump most drones together, counting a $15 toy as a unit. Granted, toy drones represent a large number of units and larger FPV models in the $120-$400 range are starting to sell well, but they still represent a small percentage of the market – especially in actual dollars. Also, the toys – and even the FPV racers – are not really drones…rather the toys are toy and the FPV/Racers are the modern equivalent of slot cars and are manually controlled.
In summary, the tendency to lump all machines together and define the market in units makes for difficulty in counting and conclusions that are of little use to those in the public, regulatory agencies and/or the industry itself.
The Dot-Drone Bust of late 2015 and 2016
The Drone industry seems a magnet to dreamers, schemers and snake oil salespeople who can easily take advantage of a clueless public and/or investors. Such is the often the case with any new and complex products – as it takes a while before the mass of people understand what is real and what is PR and a sales pitch. The Drone Revolution is very real – as was the PC revolution. However, it took decades for many of the real promises of personal computing to mature. The same will be true of aerial robotics.
A combination of bad press combined with poor decisions by the FAA and the Drone Industry representatives and lobbyists caused a large cloud to hang over sales and adoption in November/December 2015 and continuing into 2016. This “dot-drone” bust will likely continue until a clear path forward is delineated by the FAA and Industry representatives.
A Simple Take on 2016 Camera Drone Sales in the USA
Cutting through the explanations before and after this prediction, here is a simple statement regarding camera drone sales in the USA in 2016. The market, in units, is likely to increase by 30-50%. However, the market in dollars is likely to be stable or even possibly decline. This can be worked out with some simple math.