The FAA thinks it might. The agency has predicted there could be as many as 600,000 drones used for commercial operations during the next year. As of Friday, it said, there were only 18,940 registered for commercial purposes.
But it’s hard to tell because the industry is so new, Holland Michel of the Center for the Study of the Drone said.
The elimination of the pilot’s license requirement lowers the barrier to entry — operators just need to get their remote pilot certificate and register their drone — but it’s not clear whether users will think it’s worthwhile to invest in drone operations with the current restrictions, he said.
Gretchen West, senior advisor at law firm Hogan Lovells and co-executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance advocacy group, said she expects to see an uptick in use once the rules take effect.
Regulations, however, are only one obstacle to wider adoption of commercial drones, she said. Many enterprise companies are averse to risk, and issues surrounding privacy and public perception still need to be addressed.
“There’s still a lot of challenges we have to overcome as an industry to prove the value of drones, even outside the regulatory environment,” West said.