Based off of limited statistics, here are the expected drone growth numbers of the future. The FAA has a pretty bold idea of what air traffic will be like in the future, publishing their forecast for the next twenty years of flight. However, they were more conservative with drone traffic, looking just a few years down the road.

You can probably guess that it’s a good time for air traffic, with almost all segments expecting to see growth. Best of all, us drone pilots make up the fastest growing segment – but it’s not all skyward.

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In line with regulation, the FAA breaks up their forecast into hobby and commercial UAS operations. Growth is expected in each, but the numbers are fairly different.

Hobby drone growth

As calculated in 2017, there are more than 1.1 million hobby drones in the United States. The FAA expects to see that jump to 2.4 million by 2022. Thing is, they are very uncertain how interested us pilots will remain in the hobby, the number could be as small as 2 million and as high as 3.2 million. It’s up to you and I to make the difference.

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Commercial drone growth

FAA Registration FAA Registration? At the close of 2017, there were 73,673 certified remote pilots ready to take to the sky. Over the next five years, the FAA expects our numbers to swell to 301,000 pilots.

With that expected growth in pilots, you can imagine that the machines in their hands should grow as well. There were 110,604 registered commercial UAS in 2017 – that’s an average of one and a half machines per pilot.

It appears the FAA used that average to calculate expected growth, anticipating that the 301,000 pilots in 2022 will have registered 451,800 drones. However, admitting their uncertainty, they say as many as 717,895 commercial drones could take to the sky in 2022.


If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.

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Planes and spaceships

In addition to the drone forecast, normal air traffic and space flight were also covered. Passenger flights registered with the FAA totaled 954.6 billion RPMs. That’s Revenue Passenger Miles – one mile per paying person. That means that nearly 3 billion miles are flown each and every day!

As for space flight, just 22 aircraft launched and reentered our atmosphere in 2017. The FAA doesn’t think we’ll all be flying to the moon any time soon, they expect only 61 U.S. based space flights in 2020.

Are you a content hobby pilot, or is a Part 107 remote pilot certificate in your future?

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