A new report from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International states that 1,496 of the Federal Aviation Administration's first 3,136 Section 333 flying exemptions for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) went to construction-related applicants.
Construction firms with less than $1 million in revenue and less than 10 employees account for 90% of companies receiving the exception. The number of exemptions per month in the construction industry greatly increased every month until October, when it peaked at 208.
“Construction is one of the biggest verticals we see, with real estate neck and neck,” says Dan Burton, CEO of Los Angeles-based DroneBase, a platform that connects drone pilots with companies who want drone work done.
Burton’s assertion is reflected in AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems and Robotics Database, which tracked construction, infrastructure, survey and inspection as four of the top six UAS use categories. Real estate and aerial photography are the two most popular categories noted by the report.
Burton says that, over the past year, a few things reflected in the report surprised him. One is DJI’s quick cornering of the market, consumer and otherwise. “If you asked me a year ago, I would have thought there would be an enterprise platform drone that would gain prominence,” says Burton. “But DJI is moving too quickly.”
The DJI Inspire 1 drone accounts for the majority of drone usage, according to the report. That model is followed closely by the Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3—all made by DJI. In fact, there were more DJI drones that received Section 333 exemptions than all the other drone manufacturers combined. 3D Robotics is at No. 2, but it has less than a tenth of the number of drones as DJI.
Another thing that surprised Burton is that drone surveying still isn’t perfected. “You can kind of get it to the five-yard line, or 98% accuracy, now,” says Burton. “But the technology still has a little bit to go until it’s capable of replacing humans.” He says about 12 more months of innovation should unlock this potential.