Drones are a bigger innovation than the jet engine and will continue to attract heavy investment says the former head of US air safety and newly appointed Macquarie Capital advisor Michael Huerta.

“The drone has been talked about as an innovation that’s as significant as the jet engine,” Mr Huerta said in a recent Macquarie note.

“I’d argue it’s even bigger because it’s reshaping the cost profile of aviation. We can talk about using a drone in ways you’d never use an airplane, totally expanding aviation and aerospace.”

Mr Huerta is a board member of Delta Air Lines and former chief of the US Federal Aviation Administration under President Obama.

Commercial drones are set to quadruple to more than 450,000 in the US over the next four years as a range of sectors embrace the technology’s ability to get into hard-to-reach places.

That’s good news for the eight or so ASX-listed stocks involved with drone technology. (Scroll down for table)

The market was just now understanding the potential of drone technology for inspecting and securing “critical assets”, Mr Huerta said.

This includes their ability to complete flying visits to complete industrial inspections.

About 28 per cent of all commercial drone flights are for safety inspections, reports the FAA. The number of commercial drone flights in the US alone will increase from 110,606 to 451,800 by 2022.

There’s still a lot of regulatory work to be done across the globe in the drone space, with Macquarie researchers acknowledging the public may still have privacy concerns.

Australia has at least eight stocks in the drone space though many are still working on proving their technology’s potential in the military, security and consumer spaces.

Only one of those stocks has made gains this calendar year — Electro Optic Systems — and drones are a small part of its business:

ASX code Company Price change since Jan 2 Price Jun 12 Market Cap
EOS ELECTRO OPTIC SYSTEMS 0.213991769547 2.95 268.2M
OEC ORBITAL CORP -0.0804597701149 0.4 30.9M
D13 DEPARTMENT 13 0.180722891566 0.098 50.3M
DRO DRONESHIELD -0.0263157894737 0.185 31.4M
UUV UUV -0.102272727273 0.079 11.2M
MOB MOBILICOM -0.32380952381 0.071 15.2M
IOT IOT GROUP -0.666666666667 0.003 2.6M
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>> Read our expert guide on everything you need to know about investing in drone stocks 

Here are eight ASX-listed stocks players looking to soar in the drone world:

Mobilicom (ASX:MOB) Share price: 7c 

Mobilicom has one arm that serves the government sector, as well as its commercial arm Sky Hopper for industrial sectors. It provides private network solutions for robotics and drone technologies.

The company has recently announced an agreement with drone manufacturer Percepto for its technology to be integrated into Percepto’s Sparrow I drones. On Tuesday, it also confirmed it had completed a proof-of-concept field trial with the Czech police for Mobilicom units being integrated into police vests so users can communicate inside buildings and underground without need for GPS.

Department 13 (ASX:D13) Share price: 9.8c 

Department 13 is focused on securing buildings and assets through the use of its technology which identifies and assumes control of unauthorised drones in a defined airspace.

Its MESMER technology was recently displayed in front of US security officials when it reached the final round of the ThunderDrone II drone prototyping event and the company is set for phase three of the event, to be held at Nellis Airforce Base in Nevada next week.

Droneshield (ASX:DRO) Share price: 18c

Drone security business Droneshield told investors last month it is continuing to engage with defence and security companies across the globe in order to roll out its technology, which is designed to identify and provide alerts for incoming drone threats.

Electro Optic Systems (ASX: EOS) Share price: $2.95 

Drones are a small part of Electro’s military-focused offerings but it is developing high-powered laser weapons that can stop drones in their tracks.

Its share price hit $2.99 last week, up from $2.43 at the start of the year, with the company telling shareholders at its AGM in April it will reach the $250 million revenue mark in 2019.

IOT Group (ASX: IOT) Share price: 2c 

IOT is more focused on blockchain these days, but it is still pursuing a range of selfie-drone camera products, Airselfie and ROVA.

Orbital Corp (ASX: OEC) Share price: 40c 

Orbital is focused on a range of integrated propulsion systems and flight parts as well as development and testing services. In December, it set up shop in Oregon with hopes of launching into the US tactical drone market.

Aquabotix (ASX: UUV) Share price: 8c 

UUV Aquabotix develops small, underwater drone tools and last month announced it would be “moving in” with the US Army, establishing a “place of business” at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia to give the company access to a development base that is “to the level required to support contracts with stringent regulatory restrictions”.