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Green UAS: what the new program means for drone companies

The American drone industry has long been subject to an alphabet soup of terms, like UAM, AAM and RAM, among many others. Lately though, it’s also become subject to a growing rainbow of designations. The rainbow has expanded thanks to a relatively-new term in the drone industry called the Green UAS Program.

The Green UAS program riffs on the more-widely known Blue UAS program. The Blue sUAS program, run through the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), is a way to signify that a drone meets the U.S. government’s strict cybersecurity and performance standards. All drones on the Blue List are NDAA-compliant. NDAA-compliance refers to requirements spelled out in the U.S. government’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which restricts the products that certain federal agencies can buy.

The Green UAS is something of a bridge for drone companies that don’t have formal Blue UAS distinction, but that still will meet the same levels of security requirements as the DIU’s Blue UAS 2.0 program.

Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems (AUVSI), which is a massive lobbying group that advocates for the drone industry, created the program in a partnership with the DIU.

“AUVSI’s goal is to assess and certify additional platforms and components beyond those on the Blue UAS list as secure, widening the offering of secure, vetted drones available for procurement by non-DOD agencies,” according to a statement from AUVSI.

Green UAS
Green UAS

What is Green UAS, and why does it matter?

Green UAS certification is a process somewhat similar to the compliance and cybersecurity verification procedures used to verify products on DIU’s Blue UAS list. It basically achieves two goals, which are:

  • Verifying security: Green UAS puts drones through a rigorous evaluation process to ensure they meet high cybersecurity standards. This includes vulnerability and penetration testing to identify and address potential weaknesses.
  • Ensuring compliance: The program verifies compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) supply chain requirements. This ensures drones are built with components from trusted sources, mitigating security risks.

So what are the intended benefits of the Green UAS program?

  • Increased trust: For end-users (aka people who buy drones), Green UAS certification signifies a drone meets robust cybersecurity standards.
  • Streamlined vetting: The Green UAS program offers a faster and more streamlined vetting process compared to the Blue UAS program, making it attractive for commercial applications.
  • Wider market: Green UAS opens doors for drone manufacturers to sell their products to a broader range of non-defense customers who require strong cybersecurity but may not need the full rigor of Blue UAS.

Green UAS primarily is relevant to two sets of groups:

Drone manufacturers: Companies that want to certify their drones for commercial or non-defense government use can benefit from Green UAS.

A history of Green UAS

The program fell into the spotlight during XPONENTIAL 2024, which is considered one of the biggest drone events in the world. The massive drone conference for uncrewed systems and robotics was held in April 2024. AUVSI, which also created the Green UAS program, leads the event.

AUVSI announced the Green UAS program in its opening day keynote. There, AUVSI shared that it had entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The goal? Green UAS in theory makes it easier for drone component manufacturers that also hold a Green UAS certification to share their data with the DIU. In turn, that streamlines supply chains and makes it more clear what drone parts truly are NDAA-verified.

Green UAS vs. Blue UAS

While Green UAS shares similarities with the Department of Defense’s Blue UAS program, there are key distinctions:

  • Focus: Green UAS targets the commercial and non-defense drone market, whereas Blue UAS is specifically for DoD use.
  • Rigor: The security requirements for both programs are similar, but Blue UAS typically involves more stringent evaluations.
  • Cost and time: Green UAS offers a faster and more affordable certification path compared to Blue UAS.

AUVSI shared a graphic spelling out how procurement works. It shows whether Blue or Green UAS status is needed, based on type of client (federal versus state or local vs private industry):

Secure UAS Procurement Guidance AUVSI Blue Green UAS
Graphic courtesy of AUVSI

AUVSI also shared a table spelling out the differences between Green and Blue UAS in terms of their security assessments:

Green UAS vs BlueUAS certification AUVSI
Graphic courtesy of AUVSI

How Green UAS certification works

Given the differences, the Green UAS certification process is less onerous than Blue UAS. On a high level, here’s how Green UAS certification works:

  • Apply: Manufacturers apply for Green UAS certification. Their drones undergo security control assessments, vulnerability testing, and penetration testing. That submission form lives on the AUVSI website.
  • Pay the application fee: Annoyingly, this has become something of a cottage industry, as AUVSI charges both a submission and certification fee. Costs vary depending on whether or not you’re a member, but the cost to certify your product as Green UAS compliant runs from an estimated $55,000 to $100,000. The money goes to AUVSI to cover their testing costs.
  • Earn a spot on the cleared list: Drones that successfully meet the standards earn a spot on a publicly available “cleared list.”
  • Get a special badge: Applicants that pass the certification process receive an “official mark of certification.” They’re also displayed on a Green UAS cleared list. That appears on both the Green UAS website and DIU’s Blue UAS Hub.
  • Continuously undergo monitoring: Even after clearance, drones remain under continuous monitoring to maintain security.

Criticism of Green UAS certification

Though the Green UAS certification process has its merits in streamlining approval processes, it’s not without its critics.

Given the high application fees, AUVSI is able to use the Green UAS as a profit arm. AUVSI offers discounts on aspects of the certification process to its members. That creates another opportunity to boost its membership numbers —and further boost its own profits.

And by controlling Green UAS certification, some might see AUVSI as a gatekeeper in the commercial drone market. With it, AUVSI could potential hold outsized influence on which drones gain wider acceptance.

And though some might justify the high application price given the work involved to test and analyze products, it could be a barrier for smaller manufacturers. That potentially limits competition and favors larger AUVSI member companies with more resources.

Benefits of Green UAS certification

That said, Green UAS brings plenty of benefits and opportunities. In general, Green UAS offers what some might argue to be an ultra-valuable service. It promotes cybersecurity standards and creates a trusted marketplace for commercial drones. That just makes drones more useful and legitimate. In turn, it could promote the drone industry across the board (even for non-Green UAS-certified companies).

And what about AUVSI’s involvement specifically? AUVSI’s membership and experience could likely position them well to understand the drone industry’s specific needs, allowing it to further develop a relevant certification program.

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The post Green UAS: what the new program means for drone companies appeared first on The Drone Girl.

Drone Business 101: 11 steps to launching a small business as a drone pilot

The drone industry is buzzing with potential, and launching your own drone business can be a way to work for yourself — bringing in the benefits of no boss and flexible hours — and perhaps more importantly, to make big money.

But while there are certainly many drone pilots earning six-figure salaries, launching a drone business isn’t for everyone. You need to have the right set of skills, and finding your niche can feel overwhelming. Plus, there are plenty of legalities to navigate, and there’s no shortage of costs involved, from buying the right equipment to understanding drone insurance.

This guide will equip you with the essential knowledge to launch your drone business and soar to success.

1. Get licensed

Most countries have their own set of regulations for commercial drone use. If you’re launching a drone business in the U.S., familiarize yourself with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 certification process. If flying outside the U.S., understand the equivalent regulations (e.g. getting a drone pilot certificate from Transport Canada).

Get your Part 107 certificate

Under Part 107, operating a drone for business purposes in the U.S. without proper licensing is actually illegal. To get a drone pilot’s license in the US., you must pass a written test, which ensures you understand subject areas like airspace classifications (controlled vs. uncontrolled airspace) and restrictions (like no-fly zones near airports).

To take the test, you must be at least 16 years old. From there, you’ll encounter 60 multiple-choice questions. You’ll need to score at least 70% to pass.

The FAA offers online resources and in-person workshops to help you navigate the certification process. That said, I recommend enrolling in an online Part 107 drone training course to completely cover everything you need to know. These courses also typically include practice tests so you ensure you go into the test prepared (and don’t have to pay another test fee should you fail and need to retake it!).

2. Know potential other legalities

When you fly as a commercial drone pilot under Part 107, you’re subject to a number of rules. For many common drone flights, you’ll need a waiver or airspace authorization — you can’t just fly whenever you want. For example, here are a few of the following types of drone flights that require you to get a waiver in the U.S.:

  • Certain flights from or over a moving vehicle or aircraft
  • Certain flights at night
  • Certain flights over people
  • Flights beyond your visual line of sight
  • Flights in certain airspace

Getting a waiver can often require hiring a lawyer (or having some legal know-how to fill out the waiver yourself). Learn more about Part 107 waivers.

3. Find your niche

Once you’re certified and no what sorts of flights you can and can’t do, it’s time to find out where you want to specialize. With drones, it’s better to be a master of one field than a jack of all trades. After all, drones are used for fields including photography, mapping, inspections, delivery, spraying — for industries including Hollywood films, agriculture, construction, oil and gas, and more.

You might even launch your own drone light show business.

Among the easiest fields to break into is real estate photography. After all aerial real estate photos can really help sell homes — especially lavish estates with impressive outdoor features like pools or sprawling land. Even indoor drones offer compelling fly through videos that go a long way in selling homes. But given the ease, it’s also a competitive area.

Thus, it can make more sense to pursue high-growth, less-competitive sectors like:

  • Industrial inspections: Inspect wind turbines, power lines, and other hard-to-reach infrastructure for damage or wear, saving companies time and money on maintenance.
  • Precision agriculture: Assist farmers in monitoring crop health, optimizing irrigation, and applying targeted pesticides or fertilizers, leading to increased yields and sustainability.
  • Construction progress tracking and mapping: Capture detailed aerial data to track construction progress, identify potential delays, and create 3D models for improved project management.
  • Search and rescue operations (partner with qualified organizations): Partner with certified search and rescue teams to locate missing persons in disaster zones or difficult terrain, potentially saving lives.

According to the 2022 Drone Application Report from German analytics company Drone Industry Insights (DII), the top 3 industries using drones are:

  1. Energy (14% of all drone applications)
  2. Construction (12% of all drone applications)
  3. Agriculture (9% of all drone applications)

Deciding which niche to settle on can vary based on factors including your own interests, coupled with your region and startup costs. If you live near farmland, then agriculture can inherently make more sense. If you’re in Texas, you might have better luck landing oil and gas clients.

It also depends on how much money you’re willing to spend on gear and training upfront. You could get away with taking aerial real estate photos using a camera drone under $1,000, with minimal training aside from a Part 107 certification.

Enroll in specialized training

To work with higher-paying clients like oil and gas companies, you’ll likely need to undergo specialized training in aerial mapping. You can still do this for much less than the cost of a college degree. For example, UAV Coach’s Drone Mapping Essentials 2-Day Workshop is an in-person course that costs $1,999. If you’re fine with online, solo learn, the “Drone Mapping And Modeling Fundamentals,” online course teaches you how to collect and process data using easy-to-fly (and easy-to acquire) drones like a DJI Mavic 2 Pro or a DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 and costs $400.

But, it’s still money you might not have as a small business upfront.

From there, you’ll need more expensive drones that are capable of carrying advanced sensors, such as thermal cameras. You’ll also likely need drone mapping software, which also generally isn’t cheap.

4. Plan your business structure

With a better idea of the work you’d like to do, it’s time to write a business plan. With that include current budgets and financial projections. Check out NerdWallet’s guide to writing a business plan and creating a business budget.

You’ll also need to settle on your business structure. The best business structure varies by the work you’re doing and how large you anticipating growing.

  • For sole proprietorships, the start-up process is simple, but you face unlimited personal liability for any debts or lawsuits.
  • Partnerships offer shared ownership and profits, but liability is also shared.
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) provide a balance, shielding your personal assets while offering some flexibility in management structure.
  • Corporations offer the strongest liability protection but come with more complex regulations and tax implications.

Consider factors like liability exposure, ownership structure, and tax goals when selecting the business structure that best suits your drone business.

Account for taxes

Speaking of, you might want to hire an account for your business. Online bookkeeping service Pilot can work for growing startups, but might be too expensive for small businesses who might be better suited for their own small business accounting software.

If you’re not filing as a sole proprietor, then you may need to get a federal tax ID.

Consider a business bank account

Though not required for sole proprietors, it can make sense to open a business bank account so you keep your business and personal finances separate. Among the biggest benefits is simply making it easier to deduct business expenses come tax time.

Get a business credit card

Even if you don’t have an entirely new business bank account, applying for a business credit card almost certainly makes sense. Again, this makes it easy to separate business and personal expenses.

If you need to finance office supplies, drone gear and other expenses (more on that later), a business credit card can make for an easy way to do that. Plus, business credit cards also typically offer benefits on business spending that can get you money back, or at least net you with rewards like airline frequent flyer miles.

I personally use and recommend two business credit cards: the Southwest Business Credit Card and the Ink Business Cash Credit Card.

Though the Southwest Business Credit Card has a $199 annual fee, I justify it through benefits like 9,000 Southwest anniversary points (NerdWallet values 9,000 Southwest points at about $135), free in-flight WiFi and a $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS fee credit. I’m almost always flying Southwest to get to various drone conferences (and to see drone light shows!), which makes this a good credit card for my travels.

The Ink Business Cash Credit Card is great because it has no annual fee, yet it offers generous rewards. Most notably, it earns 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent each year at office supply stores, on internet cable and phone services. It also offers 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent each year at gas stations and restaurants. All those things can be huge business spending areas, making for a ripe opportunity to earn rewards.

5. Buy the right drone gear

The Sony Airpeak S1 drone

Upon choosing a niche, setting up your business and perhaps even having a new credit card, it’s time to buy the right gear. The best drone for a Hollywood filmmaker is not the same as the best drone for flying over crops spraying herbicides.

Typically, the more advanced the operation, the higher you can charge for your drone flying services. Then again, executing an advanced project might require you to have a more expensive drone.

DroneDeploy, which is one of the world’s biggest drone mapping software companies, shared a list of the top 10 most-used drones among its customers in 2024. Those are:

  1. DJI Mavic 3E
  2. DJI Zenmuse P1
  3. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
  4. DJI Phantom 4 Pro
  5. DJI Air 2S
  6. DJI Phantom 4 RTK
  7. DJI Mavic 3T
  8. Sensefly SODA
  9. Sony RX1
  10. Skydio 2+

Clearly most of those drones cost many thousands of dollars. The most popular drone among its customers, the DJI Mavic 3E is designed specifically for industrial, corporate, and first responder applications, and it costs $4,000.

When picking the best drone for your business, consider factors like payload capacity, image quality, and weather resistance. And that’s not the only hardware cost to account for. Don’t forget spare batteries, propellers, and a reliable carrying case.

Financing a drone can make sense, but it can also get you into financial hot water if you’re not prepared to take on thousands of dollars in debt. Only buy expensive gear if you have a solid business plan to pay it off.

6. Register your drones

Once you have the right drone, it’s time to register. After all, most countries require you register your drone. Again, exact processes vary by country, so check with the local aviation authority. If flying for business purposes in the U.S., you must register your drone with the FAA. There’s a small, $5 registration fee, and registration is valid for three years.

Learn more about how to register your drones here.

7. Insure your drone business

Operating a drone business comes with inherent risks. Accidents can happen, and even a minor mishap can damage your expensive drone equipment. Liability concerns are also a factor – if your drone causes property damage or injury during operation, you could be facing significant financial repercussions.

Though the FAA does not legally require drone insurance to fly in the U.S. drone insurance helps mitigate these risks. And some other countries DO require drone insurance.

With drone insurance, you generally encounter two types:

Hull Coverage: This protects your drone itself from physical damage caused by accidents, crashes, theft, or even fire. Hull coverage policies typically offer different coverage levels, allowing you to choose the level of protection that best suits your needs and budget. Consider factors like the value of your drone, the replacement cost, and the specific risks associated with your chosen niche when selecting a hull coverage plan.

Liability Coverage: This protects you from financial responsibility if your drone causes property damage or bodily injury during operation. Imagine a scenario where your drone malfunctions and crashes into a car or injures a bystander. Without liability coverage, you could be held personally liable for the damages incurred. Liability insurance provides a vital financial safety net, covering legal fees and settlements associated with such incidents.

There are all sorts of drone insurance providers. Lately though, I recommend, which is an aviation-focused insurance policy offering flexible plans (hourly, daily and monthly).

Learn more about getting drone insurance here.

8. Network

Connect with other drone pilots in your area, not as competitors, but as colleagues. Share knowledge, resources, and collaborate on projects that require multiple pilots or specialized skills.

Build relationships with local businesses that could benefit from your drone services, such as construction companies, real estate agencies, or agricultural firms. Attend drone industry events and conferences to network with potential clients, stay updated on the latest trends, and learn from experienced drone professionals.

9. Build your brand

There’s so much that goes into building your brand beyond what one blog post can cover — and the steps to build one brand can be completely different than another. A real estate agent might rely heavily on local Instagram marketing. Meanwhile, a B2B business might be better off reaching out to clients on LinkedIn.

10. Plan for profit

How much money can you charge as a drone pilot? Just as a burrito costs more in San Francisco versus in Cabo san Lucas, prices for drone piloting can vary by region. They also can value based on work involved and your own skill.

Develop a pricing strategy that considers your operational costs, the value you deliver to clients, and market competitiveness.

To do that, research competitor rates. From there, offer competitive packages that cater to different project budgets and needs. Consider offering hourly rates, fixed project fees, or retainer agreements for ongoing services. Factor in the cost of software subscriptions for editing photos or videos, insurance premiums, and any marketing expenses you incur.

11. Stay up-to-date

Knowledge is power. And since the drone industry is evolving rapidly, your knowledge also must evolve. Subscribe to industry publications, attend workshops, and stay informed about regulatory changes and technological advancements. Yes, that includes subscribing to this website, right here!

Enter your email below to get the latest industry news from The Drone Girl, as soon as it lands:

By following these steps and fostering a passion for safe, skilled drone operation, you’ll be well on your way to launching a thriving drone business and taking your place in the ever-expanding world of aerial innovation.

What do you wish you knew ahead of launching a drone business? Share your top drone business tips in the comments below!

The post Drone Business 101: 11 steps to launching a small business as a drone pilot appeared first on The Drone Girl.

UAM? AAM? RAM? Everything to know about the alphabet soup of transportation’s future

Buckle up, folks, because the future of transportation is taking flight — and it’s bringing a whole new alphabet soup of acronyms with it. There’s UAM, there’s AAM, and there’s RAM. But what does it all mean?

What about those UAMs buzzing through cityscapes and AAMs soaring over suburbs? With all these terms flying around, it’s easy to get lost in the clouds. This guide is your Rosetta Stone to the language of tomorrow’s skies.

Key terms to know

  • UAM: This stands for Urban Air Mobility, and it refers to vehicles designed for short-distance, on-demand transportation within cities. Think flying taxis, personal air vehicles, or even electric drones delivering your groceries.
  • AAM: Advanced Air Mobility takes things a step further, encompassing not just urban travel but also longer-range flights between cities and even countries. These could be electric or hybrid aircraft, capable of carrying more passengers or cargo than their UAM counterparts.
  • RAM: This one’s a bit more niche, but it’s important too. Regional Air Mobility focuses on connecting smaller communities and towns that traditional airlines might bypass. Think of it as a flying UberXL for rural areas.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other key terms to know:

  • eVTOL: This stands for Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing, and it’s the technology that powers many UAM and AAM vehicles. These aircraft can take off and land vertically, making them perfect for urban environments without needing long runways.
  • Autonomous flight: As you might guess, this refers to vehicles that can fly without a human pilot on board. While still in its early stages, autonomous flight could revolutionize air travel by making it safer, more efficient, and more accessible.
  • Air taxi: This is a more general term for any UAM or AAM vehicle used for passenger transport. Think of it like a flying Uber or Lyft. It may or may not be autonomous. For now though, proposals are largely still piloted, such as the Joby eVTOL taxis set to launch in Dubai by 2025.
  • Cargo drone: These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are specifically designed for transporting goods. They could deliver everything from packages to emergency supplies.

And how do they all relate to each other? Drone Industry Insights, which is a Germany-based drone consulting and data agency, put together a nice infographic laying out the nuances and the interplay between them:

uam vs aam and ram drone industry insights
Graphic by Drone Industry Insights

What a future of UAM, AAM and RAM could look like

Experts predict that the urban air mobility market alone could be worth trillions of dollars in the coming decades, particularly revolutionizing the way we live, work, and travel.

For people tired of navigating traffic or who just want their deliveries shipped to them as close to as when they’re ordered as possible, the concept of Urban Air Mobility is tantalizing. Roads on the ground largely constrain today’s transportation. Roads themselves are constrained by the people, rivers, forests and buildings they share the ground with. Improved UAM would likely make transportation faster. In theory, you could summon a flying car on your smartphone. With the ability to take off vertically, it could pick you up on your building’s rooftop.

Regional Air Mobility becomes a tempting proposition for connecting cities with more rural or otherwise far away areas. Consider the places you’d want to get between that are too close to justify a plane because the distances between them aren’t even far enough for the plane to take off and reach cruising altitude. But, they’d also be places that aren’t close enough for the concept of UAM to apply.

That’s where RAM could come in. When used in the context of Advanced Air Mobility, it might be possible to live in a less-populated suburb that’s a two-hour drive from a major city, but be able to commute in, say, 30 minutes, by air because you’re not sitting in traffic.

But there are also challenges to consider, such as safety regulations, infrastructure development, and public acceptance. People might logically move to rural areas for peace and quiet — something easily disrupted if aircraft are now buzzing around cities. And not only is there noise pollution at stake, but also visual pollution. Drones have already brought about privacy concerns, which could only be increased here.

Other challenges include funding. Joby’s 2021 IPO was a huge, and was a key reasons why 2021 was a record year for drone investment. But in 2022 and onwards, we’ve seen investment in aviation (and pretty much all aspects of tech) dwindle.

Joby Aviation eVTOL
A visual provided by Joby shows what it’s aircraft might look like when it launches in Dubai.

What the state of UAM, AAM and RAM is like right now

As for now, the state of UAM, AAM and RAM is all about innovation. Innovation has seen an especial surge in the past two years. For example, in 2023 alone, an unprecedented 760 patents were filed worldwide in relation to those topics, according to an analysis by the Lufthansa Innovation Hub. That’s a record.

They put together an infographic showing the number of published patent filings related to AAM, broken down by year. The visual pretty much speaks for itself.

uam aam patent filings by year
Graphic by Lufthansa Innovation Hub

According to Lufthansa’s analysis, the U.S. accounts for an overwhelming majority of patent filings. What’s more, their share of patents is growing. In 2022, 60% of all AAM patents originated from the U.S. In 2023, that figure climbed to 71%.  A big reason for the increase in U.S. share can be attributed to fewer patents coming out of China. Chinese companies filed 16% of all AAM-related patents in 2022, yet just 8% in 2023).

Big players in the AAM patent filing sector include Joby Aviation, Wisk Aero, and Beta Air. All three of those names are American companies. Beta Air stands out as the top AAM-related patent filer in 2023. And it’s tough to ignore Santa Cruz, California-based Joby. Joby has concrete plans to launch service in Dubai, supposedly by late 2024 or 2025. That followed a big launch in November 2023, when a Joby electric air taxi took off from a heliport in Manhattan. Joby has the highest number of AAM patents overall (though many were filed in 2021 or earlier).

Lufthansa Innovation Hub broke out the number of patents filed by company, for the top 12 patent filers:

uam aam patent portfolio
Graphic by Lufthansa Innovation Hub

The future of transportation is taking flight, and the alphabet soup of acronyms is just the beginning. While there are challenges to address, the potential benefits are undeniable. What are you looking forward to most in this AAM and UAM future? Leave a comment below!

The post UAM? AAM? RAM? Everything to know about the alphabet soup of transportation’s future appeared first on The Drone Girl.

4 reasons why the United Kingdom is one of the world’s top drone markets

The United Kingdom was the place that Amazon turned to when it wanted to test out drone deliveries. It’s now considered the site of the world’s first permanent postal drone delivery service. It’s seen major developments in the ways drones can be detected, as well as how drone pilots can submit requests to fly in otherwise controlled airspace. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was  conducting BVLOS autonomous deliveries of tests and protective equipment (PPE). It even has its own drone superhighway.

The drone market in the United Kingdom has been a powerhouse, and the folks over at Drone Industry Insights sought to understand why. DII is a German-based consulting and analytics group that conducts an annual survey, the latest being the 2023 Drone Industry Survey (you can download the full white paper from DII here). DII’s analysis was based on online survey responses from 1,113 drone industry participants across 85 countries, so — while it’s not necessarily a comprehensive drone market study — it’s a solid glimpse into the DACH regional drone market.

And in that survey, DII honed in on UK data specifically to better understand the UK drone market. After all, the United Kingdom is a big player across the economy as a whole, ranking among the top 10 global economies in terms of real GDP at $3.03 trillion — and unsurprisingly one of the top drone markets. In fact, an estimated 7.3% of the world’s drone companies that were active in 2022 are headquartered in the United Kingdom, according to a separate analysis by DII.

Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

So with that, here are 4 reasons why the United Kingdom has managed to rise to the top of the world’s drone markets:

1. Strong startup culture

Most of the drone companies in the UK aren’t necessarily the giants, but rather startups. In fact, an estimated 84% of the UK’s drone companies have fewer than 50 employees, any of which are drone service providers (meaning companies that conduct drone flights for their work).

One of those startups is Altitude Angel, which was founded in 2014 in Reading, United Kingdom and provides a range of airspace management data and services for drone manufacturers, developers and airspace stakeholders. Among its premiere products is its Drone Assist flight planning app, which relaunched in spring 2023 with a more robust set of industry-ready flight planning tools. Among the new improvements includes a direct connection to Altitude Angel’s UTM platform, offering ‘one-tap flight authorizations at connected airports and facilities not just within the UK, but worldwide. 

Altitude Angel is also the company behind “Project Skyway,” which is a drone superhighway spanning 165 miles that links cities and towns throughout the midlands to the southeast of the country, primarily above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby.

United Kingdom Drone Industry Insights
Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

2. Existing businesses that align with drones

The UK’s existing industries align well with areas where drones can provide a strong value proposition. According to the CIA World Factbook, 79.2% of the UK’s GDP comes from services, which include railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, coal, and petroleum.

Unsurprisingly, those are areas that have seen enormous value from drones.

Among the largest drone companies working in the service provider space (and supporting those industries) is Cyberhawk, which was founded in Scotland in 2008. The company uses drones to conduct aerial surveys and close visual inspections of difficult-to-reach assets, with a focus on sectors including oil, gas, and power generation. In fact, Cyberhawk is considered one of the top three drone service providers in the world.

3. Growing optimism

DII’s survey generates an optimism score, where respondents state how they feel about the future of the drone industry. In years past, the industry has not been optimistic, with a rating of just 5.9 out of 10 in 2022. But a lot can happen in  a year’s time. This year, the UK’s drone industry optimism score is up to 6.6. It’s got room to grow, but at least it’s growing.

4. Potentially new regulations that would make it easier for drone users to fly safely and meet regulatory requirements

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has put out what’s called a “consultation on proposals” to make it easier for drone users to fly safely and meet regulatory requirements in an open request, with the request window closing on Jan. 10, 2024. Among those proposals include simplifying regulations by reducing complexity in operational requirements in the ‘Open’ category.

Though, it might increase the barrier to entry for hobby drone pilots — if certain aspects of the proposals go through. For example, one proposal would require pilots flying drones under 250g to take an online Flyer ID test. While free, it’d still present some sort of entry barrier. But for it’s part, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has suggested that their regulations will help the drone industry.

“These proposals will help make the UK’s drone regulations fit for today and for the future. We want them to be clear and accessible for users while making sure they deliver the levels of safety and security required,” said Kevin Woolsey, co-head of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, in a prepared statement. “We’ve listened to the drone community and believe what we are proposing will make it easier for drone users to understand the requirements and fly safely.”

As far as next steps, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has said it expects to publish a response to that consultation in 2024 upon which it’ll submit recommendations to the Department for Transport.

To learn more about drones in the United Kingdom (and to get other drone industry analytics), check out Drone Industry Insights here.

The post 4 reasons why the United Kingdom is one of the world’s top drone markets appeared first on The Drone Girl.

This region has an abundance of drone startups. It’s also more optimistic about drones than the rest of the world.

One region of the world is proving to be an especial hotbed for drone startups. That’s the DACH region, which includes Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This German-speaking region has long placed a high emphasis on technological development and has been known for its culture of innovation (I mean, look no further than the region’s fancy cars, watches and chocolate). But it’s future tech too, as today the DACH region is home to more than an estimated 70,000 startups. Unsurprisingly, many of those 70,000 tech startups are part of the drone industry — and likewise many of the drone industry’s startups are concentrated in the DACH region.

Of all the drone companies operating in the DACH region, an estimated 52% of companies have 10 employees or fewer. Another 24% have between 11 and 50 employees, which means that a vast majority — 75% of all drone companies — have 50 employees or fewer.

Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

Meanwhile, only 8% of DACH drone companies have more than 500 employees.

That’s according to Drone Industry Insights based on information gathered for its annual 2023 Drone Industry Survey. (DII itself is based in Germany.) DII’s analysis was based on online survey responses from 1,113 drone industry participants across 85 countries, so keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a comprehensive drone market study but rather a glimpse into the DACH regional drone market. (You can download the full white paper from DII here).

DACH is more optimistic about drones than most other regions

Not only is the DACH region incredibly drone startup heavy, but it’s more optimistic about the state of the drone industry than most other regions.

DII tracks a sort of optimism score, and the DACH gave a 6.9, which is higher than the average worldwide score of just 6.6. And it’s also becoming more optimistic. In 2022, the DACH’s optimism score was just 6.0. Perhaps with projects like an FPV drone flight through Stuttgart’s Porsche Museum, it’s not hard to be optimistic.

Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

That said, there are still some things holding back drones, particularly in the DACH region. Participants in DII’s survey said regulation was a challenge, citing a lack of harmonization and slow approval processes. One respondent even referred to the region as having “strangulating regulation”.

That said, things will certainly get interesting for the region come Jan. 1, 2024, when the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s drone class identification label rules go into effect.

Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

Why the drone industry is going strong in the DACH region

The DACH region already has some highly prominent drone startups.

In the cargo space, standouts include Hamburg-based Airial Robotics, which builds powerful cargo drones, and was a semifinalist in the 2021 GENIUS NY business accelerator program. Perhaps more well known is Wingcopter, which builds eVTOL drones and has executed many real-world drone deliveries (and was even named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum).

Other drone makers in the region include SwissDrones, which is building unmanned helicopters.

In the software space comes names like open-source drone software platform Auterion, which is based in Switzerland, as well as o Pix4D, which is known for leveraging drones for photogrammetry.

One of the reasons for the success of the DACH drone industry is the strong balance between hardware, software, and services companies. Here is the breakdown of companies by type:

  • Drone Service Providers (30%).
  • Software Manufacturers (15%).
  • Hardware Manufacturers (14%).

With startups stereotypically comes elevated levels of energy and creativity, where new ideas are constantly being explored. Another reason for the DACH drone industry’s success is the strong sense of community among the companies. Roughly two-thirds of drone companies in the region are members of a drone association, which means that they are likely to be aware of — and able to capitalize on — collaboration opportunities. Examples include the German Aviation Association (BDL) and the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI). 

The region’s educational institutions have also stood out in their approach to researching drones, including Switzerland’s two big universities, ETH Zurich and EPFL. The government’s have been supportive of innovation, too.  For example, the German government in 2020 hosted a coronavirus hackathon, where €24 million in prize money was up for grabs to startups that could help tackle COVID-19 related issues.

Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

It doesn’t hurt that the region already has a strong economy with all three countries ranking highly in terms of real GDP; Germany ranks 5, Switzerland ranks 35 and Austria ranks 44. And, when considering real GDP per capita, all of them rank even higher — within the top 30; Germany ranks 26, Switzerland ranks 9 and Austria ranks 24, according to DII. 

And with that thriving startup scene, a strong balance between hardware, software, and services companies, and a sense of community, the DACH region is well-positioned to become a global leader in the drone industry (if it wasn’t already).

To learn more about drones in the DACH region (and to get other drone industry analytics), check out Drone Industry Insights here.

The post This region has an abundance of drone startups. It’s also more optimistic about drones than the rest of the world. appeared first on The Drone Girl.