Sky's the limit: Drone industry soars as applications expand | Crain's

Sky's the limit: Drone industry soars as applications expand

The startup Sky-Futures uses drones to conduct inspections for energy companies around the world. | Photo courtesy of Sky-Futures

These days, it seems that drones can do just about everything. That includes providing security for high-profile events like the Boston Marathon; inspecting wind turbines, mines and crops; and even cleaning up oil spills—not to mention supplying breathtaking footage for everyone from real estate agents to Hollywood producers.

As technology improves and the uses for drones expand exponentially, businesses see big growth potential. Globally, the commercial market for drones is projected to boom, from an estimated $2 billion last year to as much as $127 billion by 2020, according to a recent report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers

While forecasters see blue skies ahead, regulations could still slow businesses down. In August, the FAA released the first formal guidelines for commercial drone operators, a move that it estimated could add $82 billion to the U.S. economy over the next 10 years. Among other stipulations, the rules require drone operators to keep their devices within their line of sight, unless the FAA approves a waiver—a hurdle that many commercial operators are working to clear. Meanwhile, state and local governments are still coming up with their own regulations, providing some uncertainty for the market. 

Here's a look at the business of drones around the country, from small-scale drone operations to major players like Microsoft.

Companies soar on the wings of drones

Sky's the limit for drone technology

Zoom out for a regional view

For the consumer, drones are all about fun

April 17, 2017 - 5:41pm