FAA outlines impact of new airspace entrants

Small hobby drones will more than double from the current level of 1.1 million units to 2.4 million by 2022 while the commercial drone fleet is set to grow from 110,604 in 2017 to 451,800.

The number of remote pilots is also set to increase from 73,673 in 2017 to 301,000 in 2022.

According to the FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2038, in addition to drones, another rapidly growing sector is the FAA’s licensing, oversight and regulation of commercial space transportation activities. The FAA projects that commercial space launch and re-entry operations may triple from 22 in 2017 to as high as 61 operations in 2020.

The FAA aerospace forecast is the industry-wide standard of measurement of US aviation-related activities and uses an enormous variety of data, trends and other factors such as generally accepted economic projections, surveys and information sent by the airlines to the nation’s transport department. Additionally, the scope of the report looks at all facets of aviation including commercial air travel, air cargo, and private general aviation.

All indicators show that the growth of air travel in the United States will continue to be strong at a time when the industry is enjoying the highest levels of safety in modern aviation history.

The FAA forecasts the number of passengers travelling on commercial airlines will increase from 840.8 million in 2017 to 1.28 billion in 2038, an increase of more than 400 million passengers. Domestic enplanements are set to increase 4.7 per cent in 2018 and then grow at an average rate of 1.7 per cent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast period.  International enplanements are forecast to increase 5.0 per cent in 2018 and then grow an average of 3.3 per cent per year for the rest of the forecast period.

Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs) are the industry standard for measuring air travel demand. An RPM represents one revenue passenger travelling one mile. The FAA forecasts US airline system RPMs to grow at an average rate of 2.5 per cent per year between 2017 through 2038, with international RPMs projected too have average annual increases of 3.2 per cent per year during the forecast period.

The FAA forecasts total operations (landings and take-offs) at FAA and contract towers to reach 51.0 million in 2018 and grow to 60.5 million in 2038.

“A key to meeting this growth in air travel, while maintaining high levels of safety and efficiency, is to ensure we have the necessary infrastructure to meet demand,” the FAA stated.

It said its Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA are planning for this growth in air travel with robust infrastructure investments through the Airport Improvement Program.  Air traffic modernisation is rapidly moving towards satellite navigation technologies and procedures which will continue to allow enhanced navigation for more aircraft.

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