Drone Industry News: the Top Stories of 2020 – and What’s Next for 2021

drone industry newsNews and Commentary.  DRONELIFE published more than 840 pieces of drone industry news this year.  From drone delivery in the pandemic, the U.S.-China trade war, and new government regulations, we covered it a vast variety of drone industry drivers.  Out of all of those stories, here are three of the top themes of 2020: and just a few predictions for 2021.

We chose these themes by using our analytics to determine which stories got the most traction – and then made editorial choices to remove those stories like product sales and seasonal articles.

Number 1:  DJI is the leading drone manufacturer in the world, with market share estimates running between 65 – 80%. It’s no surprise, then, that almost all drone industry news featuring DJI generates significant interest.  This year, there were multiple themes.  DJI introduced new products: including the Mavic Air 2, Matrice M300, and the Mini 2: all highly reviewed and well-received.  They also found themselves caught up in the trade conflict between the U.S. and China, leading to a Department of Justice decision to prohibit the use of DOJ program funding to purchase and operate DJI drones, and most recently, their inclusion on the U.S. Department of Commerce “Entity” list, which makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to export components to them.

Number 2: The Blue sUAS List – and other U.S.-manufactured drone industry news.  Following the news about the DOJ decision came the release of the Department of Defense “Blue sUAS” list.  This list of five U.S.-manufactured drone solutions vetted by the DoD got a lot of attention: as did any of the manufacturers named on the list.  In addition to the Blue sUAS solution, other U.S.-made solutions also garnered a lot of attention.

Number 3: The COVID-19 Pandemic.  The pandemic has been the major story of 2020 – and it has been the biggest story in drone industry news too.  New drone delivery applications, new ways of keeping businesses going, fever-seeking drones, and new supply chain solutions have all been part of the story.  While we hope that the pandemic will be a thing of the past in 2021, this year it’s been a major theme in the industry.

A Few Predictions (or Maybe Wild Guesses) for 2021

Three themes don’t even begin to describe all of the events in the industry this year.  There have been major regulatory changes, big progress in new technologies like Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), and important new applications for drone technology introduced.   Based on all of the stories DRONELIFE covered this year, here are a few predictions for big stories in 2021.

Number 1: Passenger Drones will continue to be a big story.  While they didn’t make the top 3, passenger drone trials and investment were a growing them this year, and next year some of those urban air mobility and drone taxi trials will evolve into working passenger drone systems.   Investment in the space will continue and interest will ramp up as the technology and regulations develop.

Number 2: Flight Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).  With Remote ID, Operations Over People, and Operations at Night out of the way, U.S. regulators can focus on BVLOS operations.  More waivers, more trials, and more discussion can certainly be expected – and maybe a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)?  Who knows what a year will bring!

Number 3: Drones as First Responder.  The public safety sector is growing fast in the drone industry, and in drone industry news.  DRONERESPONDERS has provided a lot of news this year with surveys and working groups: their latest efforts will help public safety agencies around the country learn about the drone as first responder program in Chula Vista, CA.

2020 wasn’t all bad for the drone industry – and we’re expecting 2021 to be a banner year!  We’ll look forward to covering the above along with all the news we haven’t thought of yet: that’s what keeps the drone industry exciting!



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