New survey gives regulators deeper insight into drone operators and missions

The first worldwide survey of drone operations to help regulators, standards developers and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) understand through direct industry input the key drone market drivers – in terms of platforms in use to today along with their detailed mission profiles – has been published by Blyenburgh & Co, France (

“This survey gives a unique view of the industry today and a clear order of importance for government and industry agencies to prioritise their rule-making and UAS traffic management (UTM) development activities,” said Peter van Blyenburgh, CEO of Blyenburgh & Co and President of UVS International ( “It refines some of the high-level forecasts and analyses of the UAS sector so we can now better understand the key commercial drivers and where regulators will need to prioritise their efforts to ensure the industry evolves in a safe and commercially viable direction.”

The survey identifies and classifies: ​​​​​

  • Market sectors in which drone flight operations are currently taking place.
  • Flight mission purposes [Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) & Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)] that are currently taking place in compliance with applicable national rules or regulations.
  • Market sectors in which Very Low Level (VLL) flight operations [below 500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) & BVLOS] are anticipated to take place in the short term (1-2 years).
  • Flight mission purposes of the Very Low Level (VLL) flight operations (below 500 feet AGL & BVLOS) that are anticipated to take place in the short term (1-2 years).

It also classes the market sectors and flight mission purposes in order of importance.

“The survey should help organisations such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), SESAR JU and EUROCONTROL (as well as similar organisations outside of Europe) to better understand the drone community ecosystem and where to prioritise resources when identifying the standard operational scenarios for each market sector,” said Peter van Blyenburgh.

The survey identifies 31 different market sectors (table one) and 25 mission purposes (see table two). It incorporates 1004 contributions from drone operators in 66 countries; in total 10,134 completed market sector forms and 9,481 completed mission purpose forms were submitted and analysed.

To refine the results and make them even more representative, a second survey has been launched by Blyenburgh & Co ( This survey also takes into consideration the anticipated situation in the medium term (the next two to five years).

Table one: UAS/RPAS/drone Market Sectors (Copyright Blyenburgh)

Advertising Towing publicity banners, skywriting, airships with publicity projected from inside on the inside of the external envelope or publicity mounted on the outside of the external envelope.

Aerial Acrobatics & Special Effects For the cinema & TV industry and for public entertainment purposes.

Aerial Photography & Film/Video Footage Production of aerial photography & film/video footage for the production of documentaries, advertisements, video clips, printed publications or news broadcasting (news illustration purposes on television).

Deterring Flight operation with the purpose to chase animals (e.g. birds) from specific sites.

Dispensing Aerial distribution of solids (e.g. fertiliser, granulates, insects, pamphlets, pellets, seeds, other).

Exploration The act of searching the earth’s surface & subsurface with the intent of finding minerals, oil, etc.

Identification The process of recognizing as being a certain person or thing or activity.

Inspection Examination with the intent to find faults, errors, problems, malfunctions or specific phenomena.

Localisation Supplying the geographical coordinates of activities, faults, errors, malfunctions, equipment, structures, persons, lifestock or specific phenomena.

Mapping Process of creating a diagrammatic representation (incl. 3D modelling).

Manipulation The modification of a direction or position, or the displacement, of an inert object.

Measuring The process of measuring using a particular standard.

Monitoring Observation on a regular basis over a period of time.

Observation Examination of an activity, person, group, area or phenomena.

Patrolling Searching for a specific activity, person, group or phenomena in a given geographical area on a regular basis.

Relief Flight Flight carried out for humanitarian purposes to carry relief supplies such as food, clothing, shelter, medical and other items during or after an emergency and/or disaster.

Search & Rescue Looking for missing persons.

Sensing Looking for & analysing or defining the geographical coordinates of phenomena & transmitting or registering them.

Sky Painting Flights carried out by drones equipped with various types of lighting and/or smoke generating devices to create an aerial spectacle.

Sky Writing Flight carried out to create an aerial written message using smoke generated on the aircraft involved. A computer can generate the master plan and electronic signals can control the smoke output.

Special Purpose Flights serving a specific purpose [e.g. communication & WIFI relay; (tethered) aerial electricity generation]

Spotting Looking for an activity, object, person, group or phenomena & registering their geographical coordinates.

Spraying The process of spreading liquid substances [e.g. insecticide, fertiliser]

Surveillance Close observation of an activity, person, group, area or phenomena.

Surveying Detailed inspection of a geo-referenced section of the earth’s surface (incl. structures) with the purpose to study or measure altitudes, angles, distances, phenomena & structures flown over, and recording them.

Testing Ascertaining a capability or correct functioning.

Tracking The process of following something or someone.

Transport – Goods Flight carried out for the carriage & delivery of goods.

Transport – Persons Flight carried out for the carriage & delivery of persons.

Validation Confirmation by examination and provision of objective evidence that the particular requirements for a specific intended use are fulfilled.

Water Bombing Flight carried out to discharge large quantities of liquid on a fire with the intent to extinguish it or stop.

Table two: UAS/RPAS/drone Mission Purposes (Copyright Blyenburgh)

Aerial Photography, Audio-Visual Production, Advertising Flight operations relative to the production of aerial imagery for educational & publicity & informational purposes.

Agriculture, Fishery/Pisciculture, Forestry Flight operations relative to farming (crop cultivation & lifestock breeding), inshore & offshore fishing, fish farming, tree cultivation.

Cinema & TV Industry Flight operations for the cinema & TV industry relative to the production of feature & documentary films and the creation of special effects.

Construction & Real Estate Flight operations for various purposes relative to all phases of construction & related promotional & sales activities. All applications except maintenance.

Entertainment & Artistic Expression Flight operations for public entertainment purposes and for artistic expression.

Environmental Protection & Wildlife Conservation Flight operations carried out with the purpose to contribute to maintaining or restoring the quality of the natural environment and protecting wildlife.

Flight Training/Instruction Flight operations conducted by flight schools for the purpose of training/instruction of drone pilots (Duo & Solo Flights), qualification verification of pilot license holder (Check Flights) and flights conducted to maintain pilot competence.

Heritage Site & Historical Monument Management Flight operations (incl. maintenance) relative to the conservation & documentation of historical sites & monuments.

Humanitarian Aid Flight operations carried out within the context of natural & man-made disasters by or for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the purpose to assist people in need.

Insurance (Accident & Claim Investigation) Flight operations by or for insurance companies.

Maintenance Flight operations conducted for maintenance purposes [of aircraft (hull), antennae, breakwaters, bridges, buildings (internally & externally), cable cars, canals & locks, chimneys, cooling towers, dams, dikes, flare stacks, harbours, holding tanks, houses & buildings (thermal isolation mapping), industrial installations (e.g. powerplants; refineries), infrastructure, objects, pipelines, powerlines & pylons, quarries, railway cars, railway overhead power lines, railway tracks, rivers, roads & highways, roofs, runways, ships, shipping locks, ski slopes, solar farms, structures (incl. offshore platforms), tunnels, wind turbines].

Mining & Exploration Flight operations related to exploration (incl. oil & gas), mining and quarry exploitation. All applications, except maintenance.

Miscellaneous – Demonstration Flight operations conducted for regulatory (certification) authorities or potential customers.

Miscellaneous – Ferry/Positioning Delivery flights for the purpose of returning a drone to its base of operations, delivering a new drone from its place of manufacture to its customer, flying a drone from one base of operations to another or flying a drone to or from a maintenance facility for repairs, overhaul or other work.

Miscellaneous – Air Show/Racing Flight operation conducted within the context of a public air show or drone race.

News Gathering & Broadcasting Flight operations carried out for journalistic purposes.

Policy Compliance & Obtaining Legal Proof Flight missions conducted by international, regional or national governmental organisations (e.g. United Nations agencies, European Commission agencies, national agencies) or by contractors for such organisations, to verify compliance with specific policies and/or to obtain specific legal proof of non-compliance (e.g. International Criminal Court; illegal construction verification; non-respect of agricultural policies).

Public Safety Flight operations conducted by or for civil protection/defence, emergency services, fire brigades & firefighting services, public services, rescue services and utility companies, relative to safety of the general public.

Public Security & Law Enforcement Flight operations conducted by or for municipal, regional or state police, border guards, coast guard, custom authorities, harbour authorities.

Remote Operations – Sensing Flight operations with drones equipped with imaging & non-imaging payloads for remote sensing purposes other than indicated in this list.

Remote Operations – Non-Sensing Flight operations with drones equipped with non-imaging payloads, or without any payload, for specific purposes other than indicated in this list.

Research & Science Flight operations conducted for private or public research or scientific purposes. Includes flight operations carried out for the purpose of testing, experimentation, or validation of new concepts and/or technologies for company internal assessment purposes.

Transport Flight carried out for the carriage & delivery of goods or persons.

Utility Companies (Public & Private) Corporate entity or governmental agency performing a public service subject to governmental regulation (e.g. communications, gas, railways, transportation, water, WIFI). All applications, except maintenance.



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