US: According to a report of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US skies will be covered by a staggering seven million drones by 2020. The report predicts three times of more drones than what the US has today. The report says that the figure will be largely contributed by consumer drone users. The FAA was finding it tough for its legal guidelines to keep up with the constantly evolving technology, but in December issued new regulations requiring any UAV weighing more than .55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (25kg) to be registered.
"Unmanned aircraft systems will be the most dynamic growth sector within aviation," the FAA said in its annual forecast for the unmanned aerial sector. As far as this year is concerned, the agency projects the number of drones to reach 2.5 million with purchases accounting 1.9 million units by the end of 2016.
It is estimated that hobbyist unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will account for 4.3 out of the seven million total drones by 2020. The preliminary version has already had substantial effect: Registration of privately owned drones has jumped from 180,000 in early January to nearly 400,000 after the February 1 deadline.
The more drones are out there, the harder it is to track them. So the FAA has been working to develop its NextGen program to meet the demands of dealing with drones. It seeks to implement newer radar technologies and procedures involving satellite-based aircraft monitoring, and to slowly phase out the aging ground-based systems. The new system should also help reduce fuel usage, saving the US billions of dollars and maintain sustainable aviation growth.
Rising UAV numbers have been associated with all kinds of problems, including dangerous encounters where a drone may collide with ascending or descending aircraft. There are also privacy implications of the mini-drone voyeurism fever that has gripped the US.