WASHINGTON — So many people are registering drones and applying for drone pilot licenses that federal aviation officials said Friday they wonder if there will eventually be millions of unmanned aircraft crowding the nation’s skies.
In the nine months since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a drone registration system, more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the agency, said Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s drone office.
Speaking at the first meeting of a new government-industry drone advisory committee, Lawrence said new registrations are coming in at a rate of 2,000 a day. By comparison, the FAA says there are 260,165 manned aircraft registered in the U.S.
The FAA began issuing drone pilot licenses less than a month ago. Already, 13,710 people have applied to take the pilot exam, and 5,080 have passed it, Lawrence said. It’s clear the agency’s estimate of 15,000 licensed drone pilots by the end of 2016 will easily be exceeded, he said.
At one time, the FAA had forecast 1,343 drone pilots by 2020.
Lawrence asked the 35 committee members and dozens of attendees at the meeting: Will there eventually be hundreds of thousands of drones in the nation’s skies? Or will there be millions?