By Kim Slowey

Dive Brief:

  • In a report issued by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the organization said that the construction and infrastructure industries are two of the biggest users of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has given construction and infrastructure businesses 1,800 exemptions, almost 60% of all industry requests for exemptions —which is also almost 40% of the total 4,600 exemptions the FAA has approved, according to the AUVSI.
  • Businesses can apply for UAS exemptions as a way to get around the airworthiness requirements for manned aircraft until the FAA introduces rules this year specifically for drones.

Dive Insight

Until the FAA introduces its UAS rules, the AUVSI said exemptions are the easiest way for businesses “to save time, money and lives” using drones. In fact, the organization said exemptions for construction and infrastructure have spiked since March 2015, hitting a high in October 2015 with 263 approved exemptions. In January of this year, the FAA approved 216 industry exemptions.

According to a’s analysis of AUVSI data, the FAA issued Florida-based construction and infrastructure businesses the most exemptions (192), followed by California (191) and Texas (166). In addition, no matter where those 1,781 companies are located, the AUVSI reported that almost all of them are small businesses with less than $1 million in revenue and fewer than 10 employees.

Drone technology has taken off in the construction, surveying and real estate industries prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to launch expedited online drone registration beginning this spring. Along with that growing interest in the technology, the number of drone startups in the construction industry has surged. Airware, the latest company in that lineup, recently announced an investment of $30 million, and analysts have already estimated its valuation at $190 million.

Construction software giant Autodesk has also climbed on board with drone technology in two separate partnerships. The first was a collaboration with drone startup Skycatch. Drones will collect data and then feed that information to Autodesk’s ReCap software for processing. And in its most recent deal, 3D Robotics announced a partnership with both Autodesk and Sony to collect job site information with the 3DR Solo Smart drone and then process it on a single platform.