LOS ANGELES -- Forget PlayStations, iPhones or even those quasi-legal hoverboards. This holiday season, look for drones to become the must-have Christmas gift. The Federal Aviation Administration expects 1 million drones to be sold by New Year’s, and that number will only keep growing -- despite the fact that they’re not totally, well, legal. International Business Times even published a gift guide.
In the midst of the drone frenzy, the International Drone Exhibition kicked off in Los Angeles last Friday at a sprawling convention center. The event was billed as one of the largest drone events ever: It featured more than 100 exhibitors from more than two-dozen countries and attracted more than 20,000 people. “The drone economy is exploding,” Keith Kaplan, the organizer of the event, said. "And that's what you're seeing here."
It’s not hard to see why drones are becoming so popular: The technology is getting cheaper, and the drones are becoming easier to fly. The most interesting part of the exhibition was not one particular drone -- it's how differentiated they're becoming. There's a drone for everything, it seems.
There are drones for drone races, drones outfitted with thermal cameras for search-and-rescue operations, drones for police surveillance (yes, really), drones use for agriculture use and even one company that claims it’s building a drone delivery system, sort of like an "Amazon Prime Air."
Now, if the thought of thousands of drones hovering above sounds like a scary future, the government would tend to agree. Right now, the FAA is deliberating on regulations that will be imposed on the drone market by 2017. The most recent FAA task force report, published in November, recommended several guidelines for drone operators. In fact, the FAA is now requiring drone owners to register with the government any drone that weighs above 250 grams.
The entrepreneurs recognize that regulation might affect their business, but for now it’s not slowing them down. One of the exhibitors, Dan Edwards, whose company, AirVuz, is creating the “YouTube for drone footage,” said that although the use of drones is still in its infancy, it's poised to become a massive industry.
“Drones are the new iPhone,” Edwards said.