10 red-hot industries for drones

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI) has analyzed more than 3,000 Section 333 exemptions the FAA granted to U.S. businesses so they can lawfully use drones commercially. Here's what the group found.

First, a broad range of businesses are deploying drones for a variety of tasks, according to AUVSI president and CEO, Brian Wynne.

"From inspecting our nation's infrastructure to providing farmers with aerial views of their crops, the applications of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are virtually limitless," he says. "It's no wonder businesses - small and large - are clamoring to use this technology."

Of the 3,136 exemptions AUVSI analyzed, more than a third had a tie-in to the agriculture industry. Here's a look at the top 10 industries represented: aerial photography, real estate, aerial inspection, aerial survey, construction, infrastructure, agriculture, filmmaking, advertising and environmental. A further look down the list reveals even more versatility of how businesses are using this technology. (Note: some exemptions were counted multiple times in this graphic due to having applications in multiple areas.)

Small businesses have dominated the exemption list so far. About 90% of the exemptions are for businesses making less than $1 million a year and employing fewer than 10 employees. This is true for overall exemptions, as well as ag-specific exemptions.

Agriculture use exemptions began rising dramatically around March 2015, peaking in October 2015. They vary considerably by geography; the top 10 states, in descending order, are California, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and New York.

Wynne says AUVSI supports a better long-term solution than the current case-by-case Section 333 approvals that happen now.

"For the full potential of the UAS commercial market to be realized in the U.S., the FAA needs to finalize its small UAS rule, without further delays," he says. "Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS that will reduce the barriers to commercial operations."

AUVSI predicts $82 billion in revenue and more than 100,000 new jobs will result after the first decade of true commercial integration. For more analysis, including interactive charts and graphs, visit www.auvsi.org/exemptions.