The global drone market is enjoying explosive growth. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology is reshaping major industries and creating new ones. In all, drone-powered solutions are projected to have demand that reaches into the tens of billions of dollars.
The statistics that follow will help give you a sense of the incredible size and scope of the global drone industry.
1. The number of U.S. commercial drones is expected to grow by a factor of 10 over the next half-decade, from 42,000 drones in 2016 to more than 420,000 by 2021, according to a report by the Federal Aviation Administration.
2. The number of remote pilots needed to fly those commercial drones could reach as a high as 422,000 by 2021.
3. The FAA also estimates that small, hobbyist drones will more than triple in number to 3.5 million drones by 2021, up from 1.1 million drones in 2016.
4. Entrepreneurs are already moving to capitalize on this booming opportunity. There are currently 639 drone start-ups listed on AngelList, with an average valuation of $4.8 million.
5. E-commerce could help fuel the drone industry's growth. According to a survey by Walter Sands Communications, 79% of U.S. internet users are at least somewhat likely to select drones as a delivery option.
6. Another study conducted by the United States Postal Service found that 56% of consumers believe drone delivery will be faster, while 53% believe deliveries made by drones would be environmentally friendly.
7. The growth of drones is expected to impact more than just the online retail and package delivery industries. For example, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that drones could help save the insurance industry as much as $6.8 billion per year by reducing costs related to data collection, risk evaluation, and battling fraud.
8. PwC also believes that the global market for agricultural drones could be worth more than $32 billion, thanks to drones' ability to assist farmers in areas such as crop surveillance and fertilizer application.
9. Incredibly, the opportunity for drones in the global infrastructure market -- which includes applications such as land surveys and asset inspections -- may be even larger, with estimates as high as $45 billion.
10. All told, PwC pegs the total addressable value of drone-powered solutions in all applicable industries at a staggering $127 billion.
The global opportunity for drones is massive. Drones have the potential to revolutionize major industries such as insurance, agriculture, infrastructure, and e-commerce. Investors seeking to profit from this megatrend may wish to consider AeroVironment (AVAV -0.21%) -- the best pure play on the growth of the drone market available in the public markets today.
The majority of AeroVironment's revenue comes from selling unmanned surveillance aircraft to the U.S. military. The company is also expanding into the commercial drone market with drones that can be used to inspect oil pipelines and monitor the health of farm crops. Business is booming, and AeroVironment shareholders have enjoyed strong gains with the stock more than doubling over the past year. Yet with the drone market set for explosive growth in the coming decade, AeroVironment should continue to reward investors.