COVID-19 Drives Interest in Consumer Drones

How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Consumer Drone Market?

Our recent look at the FAA registration data suggests the consumer drone market is stagnating – and that raises the question of how has the consumer drone industry been impacted by COVID-19?

With COVID-19 leaving many to wait for unemployment checks, and many still working remotely, we have seen wide-ranging impacts from this global pandemic. From booms in the online software market, to signs of people moving away from larger cities.

It would be fair to assume that these tough times would scare away potential new pilots from purchasing their first drone. With travel at record lows – people aren’t on excursions to be captured with aerial imagery. Right?

Investigating the COVID-19 Impact

To test out this initial theory, we started by searching for ways to quantify the interest in buying consumer drones. This led us to dig into Google Trends data which provides the relative search frequency of any keyword, turned into a relative interest rating from 0 to 100.

We chose to look at certain keywords that indicate a high purchasing intent, and therefore chose “best drone” and “buy drone”. When someone is beginning their journey to purchase a drone, they will often begin by searching these keywords to compare prices, models and capabilities, before making a purchase.

If we look more broadly at this data, we see it reflects our early findings about the consumer market stagnation – with interest in these keywords peaking in 2016 and levelling off over time.

Despite this year-on-year decrease, we do see that searches for these keywords has a common trend – peaking significantly in the holiday periods of November and December, with a smaller uptick in July. The chart above is capturing these “hype” periods of intense interest.

The COVID-19 Bump

If we zoom into weekly data starting just before the end of 2018, we can begin to see the impact COVID-19 had on interest in buying drones. After the WHO declared COVID-19 was a global pandemic in March 11th, we saw a dramatic increase in search frequency for these keywords, albeit lagged as the pandemic took a few weeks before its impact was felt.

Comparing this data to the larger history of these keywords, the peak in April and May of this year was tied for the largest non-holiday month, back in July of 2017. Most notably, while the July uptick of 2017 was a one month trend, this COVID-19 bump still has a clear effect on the data, even today.

While we can’t definitively say this will lead to a certain increase in drone sales or registrations, it is a likely proxy for drone sales.

But what is the reason for this? We have seen many who have retained their job look at alternative living conditions, and as spending on vacations has decreased, may have turned towards local excursions – and a tool to document those adventures.

More Drone Industry Trends

This research is based off of a larger piece the DroneAnalyst team released today about the consumer drone industry history and trends. If you would like to learn more about this topic, you can read about it here.

Lastly, we have prepared a survey to capture the 2020 Drone Industry – from what drones people are buying and how service providers are doing to the impact of COVID-19 – and we would love to hear from you. 

You can take the quick 15-minute survey here:

Respondents receive a free summary of the findings and can enter to win one of two DJI Mavic Minis.

David Benowitz

David is the Head of Research at DroneAnalyst, responsible for developing and expanding its drone industry research portfolio. David joins the team from DJI, where he contributed as a founding member of its Enterprise business. David is based in Shenzhen, China waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic.