The FAA is scheduled to propose new rules as soon as this year that would allow commercial or government flights of small unmanned aircraft without having to obtain special permits.
The number of unmanned vehicles will grow more rapidly in coming decades and may reach 250,000 by 2035, including 175,000 in commercial service. Most of those will be small devices. Major drone makers include Northrop Grumman Corp., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., and Aerovironment Inc.
Expenditures on civilian and military drones around the world are expected to total $89 billion during the next 10 years, according to a forecast by the Teal Group Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia-based aerospace research company. Spending on unmanned aircraft and related systems is estimated at $5.2 billion a year and will more than double to $11.6 in 10 years.