The FAA is trying to prepare for what could be much more crowded skies after the holiday season. Retailers are stocking up on recreational drones — expected to be a hot item this year. This week, the FAA released a list of task force recommendations on how they should be monitored. FAA officials are expressing concern consumers could buy as many as a million drones this year, even as the agency scrambles to put formal regulations in place.
Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association, gave a slightly lower number.
“We project about 400,000 drones will sell this holiday season,” he said. But DuBravac pointed out the market for recreational drones is growing. That’s why the new task force recommendations call for those drones to be registered in some way.
Cooper Smith, a senior research analyst with Business Insider Intelligence, says finalizing regulations for recreational drones, expected before all those holiday gifts start flying, is a stepping stone for the FAA.
“I think what they’re trying to do here,” said Smith, “is they’re getting ahead of the approval of drones for commercial use in mid-2016. Because that’s really where we’re going to see the large impact of drones being used in public.”
But technology analyst James McQuivey of Forrester Research warns it’s unlikely every drone owner will register.
“If suddenly there are 800,000 new drone owners after this holiday season, and they’re all supposed to register,” said McQuivey, “we’ll see that something will slip through the cracks this year, and hopefully regulators will be able to adapt next year when the numbers could go well past a million.”