The global drone industry is projected to double over the next five years, from $22.5 billion in 2020 to $42.8 billion in 2025. Why?Because drones are being rolled out for defense, conservation, disaster relief, agriculture, real estate, entertainment and a whole bunch of other sectors.
But the rollouts are not evenly distributed around the world or even around the United States. In fact, as time passes, regulations seem to be varying massively depending where you are in the world. That's created a patchwork system that makes universal compliance nearly impossible, which has hampered drone development.
Or so argues the drone sector at large. Privacy, safety, and noise pollution advocates, on the other hand, see good reason to pull the air brakes. Drones are only set to increase in popularity as the price of units continues to drop, creating major privacy concerns as flight ranges increase beyond three miles and sensor payloads expand to include 4K video and more exotic sensors like thermal.
In fact, despite the apparent tangle of laws, lawmakers around the world are actually struggling to keep up with the pace of development. And while at least 143 countries have enacted some form of drone-related regulation, many experts contend that current drone regulation is insufficient to deal with the threat of widespread surveillance.
To get a sense of the evolving tapestry of legislation just take a look at the embedded visual representations of drone laws around the world. The maps are from a VPN company called Surfshark, which compiled public data on drone legislation to create the visualizations.
Roughly, the team found that most countries fell into one of seven categories: Outright ban, effective ban, restrictions apply (such as drone registration or licensing, additional observers required, no commercial usage etc), visual line of sight required, experimental visual line of sight (experiments where drones fly beyond the line of sight are allowed), unrestricted (when flying away from private property and airports, under 500 ft/150metres height and with drones weighing less than 250g), and no drone-related legislation.
Broken out by geographic area, the maps show regulation discrepancies even within close-knit regions, which illustrates the compliance challenges facing developers and commercial adopters.
The multi-colored tapestry of regulations in Europe and the Middle East may be the most glaring examples of how differentiated the regulation landscape currently is, even among close geographical neighbors.
The research behind the map project is available here.