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What Is an Orthomosaic Map? How These Maps Are Helping Catch Bad Guys, Grow Crops, and Keep People Safe

The term orthomosaic map seems to be coming up more and more lately.

At InterDrone this year there were entire sessions devoted to the process behind creating orthomosaic maps, as well as the value they present for various applications.

But what is an orthomosaic map, and how are people actually using them in the field?

Here is a good definition to get us started:

An orthophoto, orthophotograph or orthoimage is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. Unlike an uncorrected aerial photograph, an orthophotograph can be used to measure true distances, because it is an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface, having been adjusted for topographic relief, lens distortion, and camera tilt.


Put simply, an orthomosaic map is a detailed, accurate photo representation of an area, created out of many photos that have been stitched together and geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) so that it is as accurate as a map.

Here’s a section of an orthomosaic map of the Facebook campus (view the full, interactive map here):


Note: The actual map allows you to zoom in much closer, so that you can get highly detailed visual information on the site mapped.

How Are People Using Orthomosaic Maps in the Field?

Even though we’ve provided a definition, if you haven’t actually worked with an orthomosaic map (or talked to someone who has), this all may still sound pretty abstract.

To make things more concrete, let’s take a look at some specific examples of how orthomosaic maps are being used in real life. By looking at how people use these maps, we’ll be able to shed more light on what they are.

Police and Fire Departments

Police and fire departments are using orthomosaic maps in several ways:

  • Mapping highly frequented locations in cities, such as malls and schools. In the event of an active shooter scenario, fire, or other disaster that would require an evacuation or some kind of tactical response, these maps can help responders better understand the specific situation they’ll be facing when they arrive on the scene, and prepare themselves accordingly.
  • Documenting crime scenes. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to fully comb a crime scene in person, and even if you do, you might miss something. An orthomosaic map allows investigators to look back over a crime scene after they’ve left—at InterDrone, we heard a story about a bloody cell phone being located with one of these maps, which ultimately helped identify a suspect in a homicide investigation.
  • Mapping after disasters. Orthomosaic maps can provide detailed accounts of the damage in a given location so that responders can understand what they are walking into, and accurately assess the damage done to the infrastructure and surrounding area.

Check out this fire loss assessment orthomosaic map to see how these maps can be used to document damage following a fire.


Real Estate

Orthomosaic maps are being used in real estate to provide detailed, interactive maps of properties, which help realtors in their efforts to sell them. An orthomosaic map made for real estate purposes could be of a small area, such as a house, or it could cover thousands of acres of property.

Typically they’re used to showcase large properties or estates, since it can be difficult to show a prospective client the entire piece of land and/or details of the buildings on the property when they are so spread out.

Below is a section of an orthomosaic map of a school and farm in New Zealand. This is the kind of property that would be really hard to capture on the ground, or even by walking around in person, making it perfect for an ortho map.


Note: This picture is only a portion of the full ortho map. Check out the full, interactive map on the DroneDeploy website.


Orthomosaic maps can help provide detailed updates on the progress of a construction project, since they allow you to zoom in and see different parts of the building(s) under construction, as well as related resources.

Here is an image taken from an orthomosaic map of a hospital that is under construction:


Check out the full interactive map on DroneDeploy.


Orthomosaic maps can help conservationists in their efforts in a number of ways by providing a detailed, accurate map of the conditions in a given area.

Mapping forests and their growth, sand dunes and their movements, or the level of water in an area that houses a protected species of birds—these are all examples of how ortho maps are being used in the field when it comes to conservation.

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Want to know how your crops are doing today? Or how they were doing on the same day a year ago?

Ortho maps can help farmers get insights into how their crops are doing, and also allow for keeping a highly accurate record of the crops on a piece of land over time.

Image source

To learn more about orthomosaic maps and how they’re being used, check out the National Digital Orthoimagery Program. The NDOP manages and coordinates overhead imagery for civil government needs throughout the U.S.

You can also take a look at DroneDeploy’s Drone Map Gallery for more examples of orthomosaic and other types of maps created by drones—they have one of the most thorough libraries of examples that we’ve found on the web.

Want to dive into drone mapping? Check out our free beginner’s guide to drone mapping software. For an even deeper dive, enroll in our partner course, Mapping and 3D Modeling 101.

The post What Is an Orthomosaic Map? How These Maps Are Helping Catch Bad Guys, Grow Crops, and Keep People Safe appeared first on UAV Coach.

Drones in the News: 6 Ways Major News Organizations are Pushing the Drone Industry Forward

Although we sometimes gripe about the bad PR drones can get in the news, the truth is that major news organizations have contributed greatly to helping push the drone industry forward.

In this article we’ll look at the different ways that major news organizations like CNN and ABC News have helped to push the drone industry forward, including advancements on the regulatory front, changes in public perception, and the creation of sound best practices.

Without further ado, here are six ways that news organizations are helping to push the drone industry forward.

1. Flying Over People

CNN was the first company ever issued a 107.39 waiver to fly over people.

To get this waiver, CNN partnered with the FAA through the Pathfinder Program and performed extensive research and testing, not to mention exhaustive documentation regarding the specs of their proposed drone and operation.

Which is all to say that, in many ways, CNN literally created the process whereby companies can apply for, and receive, a waiver to fly over people.

And their hard work is paying off. In the last three months the FAA has issued six 107.39 waivers to five new companies (CNN received one of these—it was their third), increasing the total number of 107.39 waivers from 4 to 10 in a very small window of time. CNN certainly deserves a lot of the credit for paving the way for new, smaller companies like AeroVista Innovations to secure their own 107.39 waivers.

And the pace of the progress has been seriously impressive—in late October we wrote about how there were only three companies with 107.39 waivers. Now, just six weeks later, there are seven.

Regulators want to see that the technology is safe for activities like flights over people, but they can’t demonstrate it’s safe until it’s used at a vast scale. CNN helped provide testing for the FAA, and created a path forward.

– Greg Agvent, CNN

2. Positive PR: Highlighting the Good Drones Can Do

News organizations know that public perception is important, and crucial in shaping future regulations for emerging industries, such as the drone industry.

By covering positive drone stories, especially following the disastrous 2017 hurricane season in which Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and others ravaged many parts of the U.S.—not to mention the world—news organizations have helped to bring a positive spotlight onto the role drones can play in our lives.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta called Hurricane Harvey a watershed moment for the drone industry. This is largely the case not just because drones helped people in Houston and surrounding areas impacted by the hurricane, but because the media reported on that help.

This video from ABC News highlights the ways drones helped first responders during Hurricane Harvey:

Here is another video from ABC News showing how a drone helped first responders locate and save a man trapped in his home during a flood following severe flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina last year.


3. Sharing New Perspectives—Literally

This one is subtle, but when you think about, simply using aerial footage shot by drones has changed the way we view the news (and the world!).

For a long time, news organizations could only use helicopters when they wanted to share aerial footage. This meant that aerial shorts weren’t as common, and were often of traffic or other controlled scenarios that had been planned out well in advance.

But the relative low cost and ease of using drones means that they can be used regularly, and that news organizations can cover stories they may not have even considered in the past. And this means that the ways news organizations are using drones is literally changing how we see the world.

Check out the ABC News video below about a volcano in Iceland. Can you imagine this story without the aerial shots?


4. Creating and Implementing Sound Best Practices

Waivers to fly over people are just one part of the much larger story about how news organizations are helping to create sound best practices for the use of drones in media, and aerial cinematography in general.

The manuals and supporting materials that CNN has created for their drone operations is seriously impressive. In his keynote at InterDrone, Greg Agvent of CNN stressed how hard they worked to create and document their processes for the use of drones, as well as underscoring the fact that they use drones as needed—that is, when an aerial shot is absolutely necessary—and not simply because they might provide a neat addition to a story.

We do a ton of reports. We do risk assessments, create ops manuals, training manuals, and help to create a firm foundation for operating in national airspace.

– Greg Agvent, CNN, speaking in a keynote at InterDrone 2017

5. Covering—and Helping—During Disasters around the World

Hurricane Harvey may have thrust the usefulness of drones in disaster scenarios into the spotlight, but news organizations have been using drones in to cover—and help—following disasters for a while now.

After a natural disaster, drones can provide insight into the status of an area in real time, without risking the lives of personnel to reconnoiter the scene on foot.

Following a massive, devastating earthquake in Nepal, CNN used drones not only to cover the story but also to share information with the Nepalese authorities about which villages had been most severely impacted.

Since these villages were located in places that were rendered inaccessible due to a mudslide resulting from the earthquake, CNN’s information collected via drone was crucial in helping Nepalese authorities decide which areas to prioritize for disaster relief.


Last year, ABC News used drones to help provide information following a huge earthquake in Ecuador:


And of course, CNN reporting on Hurricane Harvey enabled by drones helped assess damage and locate survivors:


6. Acting as Ambassadors for the Drone Industry

In addition to highlighting the good that drones do in the world, news organizations act as ambassadors to government agencies and organizations throughout the world, both normalizing the use of drones and helping create the actual policies by which drones can be used in different countries.

News organizations are often the first to be granted special flight permissions by government entities, which is significant because it sets a precedent. By acting as a trusted, reputable, and responsible agent when it comes to drone flights, news organizations help create a possible path forward for other organizations and companies to be granted similar permissions.

A prime example is the FAA’s progress in issuing waivers to fly over people (#1 above). By creating a sound process, CNN literally paved the path forward so that the FAA could start issuing more (and more!) 107.39 waivers.

But that is just one example of how news organizations are acting as ambassadors for the drone industry. CNN has also been given special permission to fly in places that are otherwise off limits, such as during the Peal Harbor Anniversary, and in other restricted areas throughout the world.

The relationships and policies that news organizations have helped forge with various governments will only help as as we all work together to push the drone industry forward.

Hurrah for the progress we’ve already made, and here’s to seeing even more soon.

The post Drones in the News: 6 Ways Major News Organizations are Pushing the Drone Industry Forward appeared first on UAV Coach.

How to Find Work in the Drone Industry: The Growing Importance of Professional Training

Note: This article first appeared on the InterDrone blog.

A lot has changed in the drone industry since the FAA first launched the Part 107 rules over a year ago, in August of 2016.

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In that time we’ve seen drones grow more sophisticated, more focused on niche applications, and cheaper in general. We’ve also seen the rise of the droneprenuer, the drone service provider who works for him- or herself, usually doing aerial cinematography but also, in some cases, doing work in surveying, mapping, or other applications.

The droneprenuer model is appealing because it promises financial freedom. But in the rush to start their own business and work for themselves, some drone pilots overlook the importance of gaining solid professional experience.

Who Gets the Job: Why Professional Training Is So Important

At InterDrone in September of this year we saw seven different specialized enterprise tracks for attendees:

  • UAVs in Construction
  • Surveying and Mapping
  • Precision Agriculture
  • Mining and Aggregates
  • Police, Fire, and Emergency Response
  • Infrastructure Inspection
  • Videography

Seven tracks—just think about that.

The number of tracks alone indicates how important training and specialization has already become when it comes to finding work in the drone industry. That trend will only continue as drones become adopted in more and more scenarios, and more and more specific skill sets are required to be paired with the ability to fly well.

I think a lot of people assume that you can get a certification from the federal government and the money’s going to start pouring in.

– Alan Perlman, CEO and Founder of UAV Coach // Drone Pilot Ground School

It may have initially been the case that simply knowing how to fly was enough to make a drone pilot stand out and help him or her find work. But as the market gets more saturated with certified drone pilots, this approach just won’t work any more.

While there are still many droneprenuers who hang their shingle and offer every kind of service possible—not just aerial cinematography, but also aerial thermography, 3D mapping, and anything else you might need—the truth is that those who are trained and have a specialized niche are the ones who are actually making money.

A recent report from Skylogic Research showed that while the vast majority of drone service providers (46%) are working in aerial cinematography, at the top of the list of those making over $100K a year were pilots doing work in Surveying / Mapping / GIS.

The report also found that the top two applications most likely to be outsourced (i.e., where a dronepreneur might find steady work) were Agriculture / Farming Services and Utilities Inspections. That is, areas that require an extra level of professional training, in addition to simply knowing how to fly.

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But in some ways, this is all getting ahead of ourselves. Before launching a drone services business, it’s also important to become a proficient pilot, and log the hours needed to become a proficient pilot.

After this, it’s important to master the skill set you’re going to be selling. If you’re going to work in aerial cinematography, you have to become proficient in post production and cinematography, and the entire world of skill sets required to create sellable video footage. If you’re going to work in mapping, you have to become proficient in mapping software, and in the terms and perspectives your clients will bring to the table when they request a finished product.

This is not to say that you can’t find work, or that you should feel discouraged—quite the opposite, actually.

There is a lot of work out there, but it requires real, professional training. Right now it would be much better to hone in on a specific application and become incredibly good at it than to offer everything under the sun (imagine being an expert at all seven of those enterprise tracks InterDrone offered this year—pretty unlikely, right?).

The quality of your work will differentiate you from competitors, especially those who are continuing to offer everything, and doing nothing especially well.

For more on the importance of professional training, check out InterDrone’s recent podcast with Alan Perlman, our CEO and Founder:


Growing Opportunities in STEM for Young Pilots

Earlier this year the Atlantic reported on students in the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative participating in a competition where they designed, built, engineered, and tested their own drones.

The competition came at the end of a year-long high school class in aerospace and aviation, in which drones figured prominently as opportunities for students to learn various aspects of aerospace engineering and design.

Scenarios like this are cropping up throughout the U.S., and the combination of drones and STEM education is timely, since jobs in STEM fields have been forecasted to grow at an exponential rate over the next several years.

Drones offer an enticing entry point for STEM studies, in that students generally perceive them as cool and fun. Students who start out simply interested in flying may end up excited about STEM studies, and either pursuing a future career in a STEM field—of which there are many—or in the growing drone industry itself.

Following the growing trend of drones being used in STEM education, Drone Pilot Ground School, a leading remote test prep course for the FAA’s Part 107 exam based in the U.S., recently launched the High School STEM Scholarship for Aspiring Commercial Drone Pilots to support high school students who want to become certified commercial drone pilots.

As the use of drones in STEM studies grows, we may see an emerging generation of drone pilots who are not just good at flying, but experts in specific niches, such as mapping or thermography—and if they get started in high school they will almost certainly have a leg up when they do enter the job market.

Know a high school student interested in pursuing FAA certification to fly drones commercially? Make sure to tell him or her about Drone Pilot Ground School’s new scholarship.

The post How to Find Work in the Drone Industry: The Growing Importance of Professional Training appeared first on UAV Coach.

“We Have the Best Drone Racing Pilots in the World”—An Interview with Sahand Barati, VP at DR1 Racing

DR1 Racing is one of the biggest drone racing organizations in the world, and this last year has seen some huge milestones for them—and for FPV racing in general—including a racing series that features some of the most amazing locations around the world. We got a chance to sit down with Sahand Barati, VP of Business Development and all around drone racing aficionado at DR1 Racing to learn more about DR1’s successes this season, and what he sees coming next in the world of drone racing. Read on to hear what Sahand had to say.

About DR1

DR1 Racing is a world-class drone racing organization that combines elite pilots, epic locations, and adrenaline-filled races into one high-octane sports league. Their races take place in outdoor locations throughout the world, and are also featured internationally in over 100 countries on networks that include Eurosport, CBS, Fox Sports, Discovery Channel, beIN, and Twitch.tv.

About Sahand Barati

Sahand Barati is the VP of Business Development at DR1 Racing. He’s produced televised races such as the 2016 World Drone Prix, 2016 GoPro Drone Nationals presented by Dell EMC on ESPN, and the 2017 DHL Champions Series fueled by Mountain Dew on CBS/ Eurosport/ Fox Sports. He loves to travel, and he’s been into drone racing since its inception.

Sahand Barati-DR1-drone

Sahand Barati, VP of Business Development for DR1 Racing

Our goal is to feature the very best drone races in the world—both in terms of drone pilots and in terms of technology—period.

Begin Interview:

Describe what DR1 does in one sentence.

Extreme drone racing.

How is DR1 different from the Drone Racing League and other drone racing companies?

The DR1  champion series—which is our premier series—is an outdoor, team based, open classed series in which five teams race at six different locations around the world. On the other hand, the Drone Racing League is a spec class circuit, which pits individual pilots against each other across six races, and all of those races take place at indoor tracks.

Another key distinguishing factor for DR1 is that, while DRL creates its own technology in-house, we actually invite all the biggest and best players and drone racing manufacturers to bring their best technology forward, and have them compete. Providing an open playing field, where only the best technology can be used, and ultimately win, means that we’re helping to push the envelope for the industry, since it requires manufactures to develop the very best systems in order to stay competitive.

On the same note, we allow our pilots to have sponsors and provide a generally open environment, instead of making companies pay DR1 to buy into being a sponsor. We see this as helping to bring in the very best talent in drone racing in the entire world, since pilots can make their own financial decisions about where to compete. Our goal is to feature the very best drone races in the world—both in terms of drone pilots and in terms of technology—period.

Bottom line, we believe that we have the best pilots in the world. We’d be happy to set up a head-to-head with any other drone racing organization between our two top pilots and theirs, any day.

Fill us in on your background. How did you first get involved with drone racing, and how did you end up working with DR1?

I’ve been interested in drone racing since it first started, about three years ago.

Back in 2015, me and two friends started a group called the IDRA (International Drone Racing Association). We hosted races around the U.S., predominantly on the west coast, and we were able to get coverage from big names like the New York Times and CNN.

At that time races were primarily taking place in corn fields, and we were making it up as we went along. But we started to see some real traction, so we knew there was interest there.

A defining moment was when the crown prince of Dubai reached out to us, and brought us to  Dubai to host a huge event called the World Drone Prix with a million dollar grand prize.

The World Prix really helped put drone racing on the map. The event raised $20 million, and to this day, even as drone racing has grown in popularity, it still holds the record for being the largest production of any drone race ever.


Check out this video featuring the World Drone Prix held in Dubai

After my work with IDRA I went to work with a different group called DSA, who had several franchises around the world and was running a circuit called the Drone Nationals. We did a big event in New York, and that led to an opportunity to work with DR1, and the rest is history.

Tell us more about the locations where the racing has been happening with DR1 during the Champions Series. What’s exciting about these locations, and what should people reading know about them?

I always say that drone racing is a three dimensional sport. It belongs outside. I also think that if you’re going to do something that will be watched on T.V., it better look good.

That’s why we wanted exotic locations for our races, places that were picturesque and had unique elements in their natural topography and environment. We wanted to build three dimensional courses that had never been seen before, and bring them into people’s homes.

We created these courses to be memorable, so that even years down the road you’ll remember these races because the courses stand out so much aesthetically, both in general and as compared with each other.

Another aspect of the courses for this season is that we wanted them to acknowledge some of the background and history of drone racing.

As a culture, drone racing has generally been illegal in many of its manifestations, and building dives are a prime example. That’s why we included the building dive in the DHL Tower course. We were the first company to put a legal building dive into a race track. We wanted to incorporate that aspect of the history of drone racing into the courses, in order to pay homage to drone racing’s history.


DR1 recently hosted the first drone race ever to appear on broadcast television. Can you tell us about that—why was it an important event, and how did you secure the partnership with CBS?

Having drone racing appear on a major network was itself a watershed moment, but the ratings we got made it not just historic, but also a huge step forward for the industry.

According to the Nielson Ratings we had somewhere between 560-600,000 live views. To put that in perspective, that number beats a lot of other big events that were happening around the same time. It beats premier league soccer. It beats Showtime boxing in certain events for that weekend. It beats the Breeders Cup, in certain areas. And it beats Formula E’s New York event that they did in Brooklyn.

To see that level of interest—that itself is a milestone for the industry.

How can people reading get more involved in drone racing? Do you have to spend a bunch of money just to try it out?

From a racing perspective, one way to get involved is to try flying with a micro-drone.

The great thing about micro-drones is that they’re really lightweight, they can’t hurt anyone, and they’re a lot of fun to fly. They can literally turn your home, which you see everyday, into a three dimensional play ground. Suddenly, it’s not your house anymore but a place to fly. That’s something else.

Flying on simulators is another good way to get into the sport.

Using sims allows you to fly without spending a lot of money. Flying a racing drone is hard, and takes a lot of time to learn, so you can test the waters first on a sim. And you also don’t risk wasting all of your money—not to mention work, if you build your own—in a crash.

What simulators would you recommend?

One of the most popular ones right now is VelociDrone. They have a lot of active tournaments, and it’s fairly inexpensive. Also, you can run VelociDrone on an average computer. (Some of the newer sims need such a powerful system to use that they’re not practical for many people.)

Liftoff and Rotor Rush are also great sims. Using a sim is definitely a great way to get into drone racing, even as a fan, because it helps you understand how truly impressive what these pilots do on the race course is.

What are your predictions for the drone industry, either specifically for racing or in general? Please feel free to answer at length (what you see way down the road, what you see for next year, where you see regulations headed in the U.S. and abroad, new applications, etc.).

My predictions are that we’re going to see more growth, but we’re also going to see things stabilize a lot more too.

In 2015-2016 we saw a lot of hype around drone racing, which left something of a shell of elevated expectations around growth that people weren’t prepared for.

Now things are maturing in a positive way, and we’re starting to see a more realistic approach to growth in drone racing.

But the sport is definitely continuing to grow. When you look at how it took 15 years for eSports to mature into the billion dollar industry that it is, and then think that drone racing is only three years old and it’s already an international sport with million dollar prize purses and major networks and blue chip brands sponsoring it, that’s just incredible.

What’s in store for 2018?

In 2018 we’re going to have faster pilots, faster drones, and bigger, more exotic locations that will be even more impressive than what you saw in season one.

We’re also going to see some major rivals get to face each other and battle it out on the race course. It’s going to be a blast.

Want to see a flight through one of DR1’s outdoor race courses? Check out this video of Luke Bannister flying through the Mojave Boneyard at lightning speed.

Want to learn more about the courses from the Champions Series? Check out the pictures below or visit the DR1 website.

DR1-Isle of man DR1-DHL Tower DR1Spike Island DR1-Bunowen Castle DR1-Trona Pinnacles DR1-Mojave Boneyard

The post “We Have the Best Drone Racing Pilots in the World”—An Interview with Sahand Barati, VP at DR1 Racing appeared first on UAV Coach.

What’s the Most Popular Drone in the U.S.? New FAA Data Answers This Question and More

The FAA recently made public all of their records on drone registrations up to October 31, 2017.

Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone did an excellent analysis of the data the FAA released, and we’ll share some of their key findings below.

Some key insights off the bat:

  • In terms of sheer numbers registered, DJI’s Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 are the top drones in the U.S. for commercial work.
  • States with low population densities, like Alaska and Montana, have the highest per capita rates of FAA-certified drone pilots and of drones being used for commercial (i.e., non-hobbyist) work.
  • There are a surprising number of international drone hobbyists who have registered their drones with the FAA—over 13,000 hobbyist drones are recorded as registered by people living outside the U.S.


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Commercial / Non-Hobbyist Insights

The FAA released data on 106,739 commercial / non-hobbyist drones. Here is what the data reveals.

The Top Commercial Drones in the U.S.

As if we needed further evidence, the FAA’s data on the types of commercial drones registered in the U.S. is yet another demonstration of how strong DJI’s position is in the drone industry.

DJI drones account for 78% of the commercial drones in the top 30, and at least 70% of all commercial drones overall.


As you can see in the chart above, DJI’s Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 are the most popular non-hobbyist drones in the U.S., with DJI holding the first four spots.

After DJI, Intel is the second drone manufacturer on the list with 4,800 of their Shooting Start 2 drones registered. Since the Shooting Star is not yet for sale to the public, it appears that Intel is the most likely source for all of these registrations, which would make them the largest single owner of registered drones in the U.S.

Similarly to Intel, there are some other drones that appear on the list above that were registered in big batches, and are not for sale to the public. Check out the two drones in the right hand column whose manufacturers are ‘Unknown’—the Hamilton2 and the R1. There are 329 R1s registered in Redwood City, CA and 426 Hamilton2s registered in Menlo Park, which indicates that they might be either prototypes, or used for internal demonstrations at companies located in those two cities.

A surprising entry on the list of the top 30 is 3D Robotics’ Solo, coming in as the 3rd manufacturer listed with 3,269 drones registered.

3DR’s play to compete head-to-head with DJI failed last year but since then they’ve seen some major successes by pivoting to focus on their Site Scan platform. It could be that the number of Solos registered has more to do with the success of Site Scan than with the Solo itself—DJI recently partnered with 3DR to allow Site Scan to run on the Phantom 4, which could mean that we’ll see fewer Solos registered this time next year.

Here is the data on commercial drone manufacturers visualized in a pie chart (driving home yet again DJI’s dominance), as well as some data points on the types of commercial drones being registered.



Clearly, the quadcopter is king.

Regarding categories, it’s interesting to see that commercial and prosumer drones are edging up in the ranks, and combined are almost equal to the number of consumer drones on the list. We imagine prosumer and commercial drones will overtake the consumer category within the next few years, given how many types of commercial applications, and specific drones to do them, have been springing up lately.

Density of Registrations

While you might think that more urban areas would have more drones registered for commercial work, the data shows that per capita the five states with the greatest number of non-hobbyist drones are states with lots of wide open spaces: Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Colorado, and Montana.

States with a low population density appear to have more non-hobbyist drones per capita than densely populated states.

Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone

Bard’s study doesn’t provide an analysis about why there are more commercial drones in these states, but it seems like it could be related to drone pilots feeling like there will less competition in less densely populated states, and also because there tend to be less regulations in large, rural areas than there are in densely populated urban centers.

Another reason could simply be that there’s more work for drone pilots in states with lots of wide open spaces. Surveying pipelines or doing aerial services work in agriculture come to mind, along with other industrial use cases, like mining.

Here is the data on where commercial drones are registered:


Not too surprisingly, states with a high number of commercial drones also had a high number of FAA-certified drone pilots per capita (the number of non-hobbyist drones per certified pilot was found to be about 1.7), and states with a low number of non-hobbyist drones per capita had a correspondingly low number of FAA-certified drone pilots.


Hobbyist Insights

The FAA released data on 836,796 hobbyist drone users, and we’ll look at what the data reveals in just a moment. Before diving into the hobbyist data, it’s important to note two things:

  • Since the FAA only requires hobbyists to register themselves as users, we don’t have data on the types of drones hobbyists are buying, but only on their locations.
  • Following the Taylor court decision in May of this year, in which an appeals court in D.C. found that the FAA did not have the authority to regulate “model aircraft,” there has been a noticeable decline in hobbyists registering themselves as drone users, so there we can reasonably assume there are more hobbyists out there than reflected in the data.

Although the legal battle isn’t over, and the FAA may eventually be given the authority to require hobbyists to register their drones through further litigation or new legislation, at the moment the reality is that fewer hobbyists are registering their drones. This means that there are more hobbyists out there that are not registering themselves as drone owners than their were previously, and so there we can reasonably assume that a corresponding data gap has arisen since May of this year.

International Hobbyist Drone Registrations

One interesting data point revealed in the FAA’s database is the number of hobbyist drone owners located abroad.

The data reveals that there are 13,196 hobbyists registered in 123 countries and territories outside the U.S. Those non-U.S. countries with the most most registered hobbyists are Canada (2,253), Germany (1,860), the U.K. (963), China (796), and Japan (752).

Density of Registrations

You might expect commercial drone registrations and hobbyist drone user registrations to parallel each other, but it turns out that they don’t.

The five states with the greatest number of hobbyist drone users per capita are Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, and Washington—only Alaska and Colorado overlap with the top five states for commercial drones.


It would be great to see the data on what kinds of drones those hobbyists are flying—we can only wonder if there might be surprises in there, given the price gap between high quality cheap drones and more expensive, high end consumer drones. And what about FPV racing drones?

Oh well. For now, we’ll just have to be satisfied with the data we have.

Want more drone industry data? Check out our article on research showing where drone service providers are finding work.

The post What’s the Most Popular Drone in the U.S.? New FAA Data Answers This Question and More appeared first on UAV Coach.

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