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Drones the latest buzz

In the 12 months ending April 2016), drone sales in the US have grown 224 percent year-over-year to nearly US$200 million ($270 mil), according to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service.

Top-sellig drone brands by dollar value (US) (Source: NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service/12 months ending April 2016
Top-selling drone brands by dollar value (Source: NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service. To April 2016.)

Sales growth has accelerated to more than four times higher than the same time period last year. DJI is Queen Bee of the drones, and set to consolidate that position with the recent release of the new generation Phantom 4.

Drones with 4K cameras accounted for more than one-third of dollar sales in the 12 months ending April, while drones with built-in GPS accounted for 64 percent of revenue. Additionally, drones with an average price greater than US$500 (say $750 incl. GST) accounted for 56 percent of dollar sales in that same time period. The average drone sold for more than $550 in April, giving drones one of the highest average prices of all categories in technology at retail.

‘The drone category is continuing to take shape as new products and features such as 4K cameras, Bluetooth and built-in GPS, reveal an expanding range of use cases. The market is maturing in that respect,’said Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst for The NPD Group. ‘The continued interest around unmanned aerial systems and an expanding retail footprint point to a strong 2016 and 2017 as a result.’

Drones proved to be a compelling holiday item with the 2015 holiday season seeing unit sales increasing 445 percent from the prior holiday season. Accompanied by high consumer interest and competitive prices, sales for December alone were 273 percent higher. Demand for drones were seemingly unaffected by the announcement and implementation of the US Federal Aviation Administration’s registration rule, requiring owners of drones weighing between 0.55 lbs. and 55 lbs. to register their products before flying them outdoors. From the announcement in October to the implementation in December, dollar sales at least doubled month over month.

In Australia, CASA has actually liberalised drone use, announcing that from late September even commercial operators piloting a drone weighing less than 2kg will not need regulatory approval in most applications. This removes the need to obtain an operator’s certificate costing $4000 and remote pilot licence, both currently required for any commercial operation.

Related story: CASA relaxed, DJI alert

NOTE: The story above is based on US sales figures for drones. Unfortunately, the Australian industry has no industry association or market research group compiling and sharing industry-wide market intelligence…

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