Many experts saw the 2016 rollout of Part 107 from the FAA as a watershed moment for the commercial drone industry as a whole. For a long time, organizations of all sizes stayed awayfrom fully exploring UAV technology because of the hurdles and uncertainty associated with securing a Section 333 Exemption. Under Part 107 though, operators and organizations have a clear idea around how they can legally operate a drone for commercial purposes, and the threshold to do so has been considerably reduced. Part 107 might not have given commercial drone operators everything they wanted, but even the FAA’s harshest critics had to admit the rule provides the clear guidance and structure they had long been asking to see delivered.
Because of this development, 2017 is shaping up to be a critically important year. Professionals in oil & gas, construction, precision agriculture, process & utilities, mining & aggregates, law enforcement/emergency response/search & rescue as well as civil infrastructure are all looking at drone technology in a completely different light, but that doesn’t mean adoption is going to be a simple or easy task. There will also be challenges associated with sorting out what it means to secure proper insurance, changing public perception around commercial drone operations and what it means to scale a drone program.
Luckily, experts across the industry have insight around all of these items and plenty more. Their thoughts around what 2017 will mean to drone manufacturers, service providers, stakeholders and everyone else in the commercial UAV ecosystem provide an enlightening look at a year that could enable far-reaching growth and opportunity.