Last week I gave you a look back at some of the biggest drone stories of 2022. But now it’s time to look forward to what’s happening with drones in 2023.
Tech in general is grappling with a pullback after the industry exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire economy could be facing a recession — if it’s not already in one. For drones specifically, there seems to be a focus on commercial drones versus the hobby side of things — in terms of what manufacturers are building. But that’s not to say that the hobby side is being ignored. With recent launches of products like DJI Avata, the recreational drone arm could be poised for expansion too.
So with that, here’s some insight into what I’m most looking forward to with drones in 2023. And no, I don’t have a crystal ball, so this list is sure to overlook impending developments with drones in 2023. Use the comments section to weigh in with your own hopes and predictions for drones in 2023.
So with that, here are the most exciting developments I look forward to seeing around drones in 2023:
Continued remote ID rollout
One of the biggest days to watch out for in 2023 is Sept. 16, 2023. As of that major date, drone pilots will only be able to fly Remote ID-compliant drones (unless their flights fit in one of the exception categories, such as flights in an FAA-recognized Identification Area (FRIAs) or if the drone weighs 0.55 lbs or less, such as the DJI Mini 3 Pro).
For most drone pilots, you won’t need to dump your existing gear —— you’ll just need to give it a little digital update sometime before then. Most of the big drone companies have said that they intend to roll out software updates sometime in 2023 (before September 2023, of course) that would make current drones Remote ID-compliant.
Those changes continue an ongoing, slow rollout of Remote ID regulation, the first piece of which went into effect in September 2022. At that time, a new rule kicked in stating that new drones produced and flown in the U.S. might be Remote ID-compliant. Though, the FAA simultaneously indicated that enforcement would be minimal-to-nonexistent. It remains to be seen if a similar strategy will be employed come September 2023.
Developments in UTM
UTM is short for uncrewed traffic management, and it’s basically air traffic control for drones. Testing is underway, with a big UTM Field Test project being done in coordination with the FAA and executed by the folks at NUAIR in upstate New York. The test is expected to commence by spring 2023, and could help provide insight into standards needed to support beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. Expect those insight, and more to come in 2023.
More certifications of European Class Identification labels
Over in Europe, 2023 is set to see many certifications of European Class identification labels. That’s because as of Jan. 1, 2024, all drones flown in the Open category must have what’s called a C0 to C4 class identification label.
In 2022, we saw a few drones get certified under the new EASA requirements, including SenseFly’s eBee series and DJI’s Mavic 3 drone. That was just the beginning of what is set to be far more to come in 2023.
More drone delivery tests around the U.S.
With only a few weeks to go in 2022, DroneUp announced that it had now been operating in six U.S. states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The flights are done in partnership with Walmart, bringing Walmart products to homes of people who live in a small radius of a participating store.
And not long after, with just a few days to go in 2022, Amazon Prime Air’s Vice President David Caron posted on his LinkedIn account about completing their first deliveries in Texas and California.
Also in 2022, Zipline — which is the largest drone delivery operator in the world — began delivering prescriptions and other healthcare products to people’s homes in the Salt Lake City area as part of a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, which is a Utah-based, not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, operating in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.
Given that these are still very small, initial launches, consider this the baby steps of drones. But those small, baby steps are some of the most important. You have to learn how to walk before you can run, and in 2023, maybe we’ll find ourselves in the power walking or jogging stages of things, when it comes to drone delivery.
More consumer drones that weigh less than 250 grams
Drones under 250 grams are a big deal beyond just being convenient to travel with. That’s because many types of federal drone regulations do not apply to drones under 250 grams. For example, drones under 250 grams do not need to be registered with the FAA for recreational operations, nor do they need to be Remote ID compliant.
Some of the most popular drones available now, including the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Autel Evo Nano drone, launched in 2022 with a sub-250 gram weight. In the last month of 2022, DJI launched an even-cheaper version of its Mini 3 drone, also under 250 grams, signaling a continued emphasis on drones that aren’t subject to such regulations. Expect more such products to follow in the new year.
CES and the Women and Drones Hall of Fame
This one is admittedly self-serving, but one of the events I’ve really been looking forward to in 2023 is the Consumer Electronics Show. Though 2023 marks the 10th year of The Drone Girl, it’ll be my first time at CES.
It’s been a long time coming, but a big reason I’m finally going this year is for the Women and Drones annual Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards. This is the first year that Women and Drones is honoring drone industry leaders with a Hall of Fame award, and I’m humbled to be among the dozen women who is accepting such an award. The award ceremony is set for Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. What a swell way to kick off a new year!