DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter
Screenshot by author, from YouTube

There is a database of every registered drone user in America. It was created by the FAA, which last year announced its requirement that all private drone owners register their craft online. The agency recently released these registration data collected since last year, which is a good chance for us in the public to analyze it. Vitally, that information lacks names and street addresses of registered owners, but since it includes city, state and zip code, it’s possible to map out where drone owners are. Which is what flight restrictions mappers AirMapIO did.

The results, as quickly noted on Twitter by Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs at dronemaker DJI, resemble a population map.

This is a pretty classic problem! Some phenomenons are geography-dependent, like “people who surf,” which we’d expect to see a lot more on the coasts. Most things people do, and especially most things people buy, aren’t limited by the environment around them. A lot of distributions of behavior within the United States will just look like a distribution of where people are. While the map itself isn’t surprising, that it’s a fairly normal distribution does tell us one big thing: people who buy and fly drones aren’t limited by geography.