ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
Analyst: Global Defense Drone Market Booming
ATLANTA — Over the next 10 years, the global unmanned aerial system market will continue to make exponential gains, said one analyst May 7.
“Unmanned aerial vehicles are viewed by most militaries as having a growing significance in future operations,” said Derrick Maple, principal analyst for unmanned systems at IHS Aerospace,
Defense and Security. “Our forecast projects that by 2024 the market will almost double.”
In 2010, the entire global defense and security UAV market — including platforms and services — was worth $4.7 billion. In 2015, it grew to $5.9 billion. IHS expects it to reach $11.1 billion by 2024, he said during a speech at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Conference.
“One trend that is evident is the resilience of the UAV market, which despite constrained defense budgets had grown overall in the last five years,” he said.
While the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has reduced the U.S. end user market, international demand is driving growth, he said. Foreign militaries are procuring medium-altitude, long-endurance and high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs, he said.
“This clearly opens up a lot of opportunities for suppliers … and Northrop Grumman and General Atomics have the ability to capitalize on this growth to augment their U.S. sales,” he said.
Countries such as Australia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the Middle East region will provide significant opportunities for U.S. manufacturers, he said. “I think the picture is really very rosy for U.S. suppliers,” he said.
However, the future market will also be more competitive, as more nations are growing their indigenous UAV manufacturing base, he said.
Many European and Asian countries are beginning to develop their own systems, he noted. They are also teaming up to help to reduce costs. This will add complexity to the market. India and South
Korea are building their own systems as they face rising tensions in the region from countries such as China and North Korea.
Germany, France and Italy are expected to join together to manufacture a European UAV, Maple said. This venture may result in a pan-European new-generation medium altitude, long-endurance UAV, he said. “As we have seen before with on multi-national programs, there will be considerable challenges to defining and managing these programs, but it will help to spread the cost of development.”
Russia and China are also ramping up their own UAV capabilities, he said. Russia plans to invest $10 billion into unmanned systems for its armed forces through 2020. China is increasing its armed
UAV capability and preparing to potentially export their aircraft. However, that won’t take away from U.S. sales, Maple said.
That market is not open to Western suppliers, he said. “From a Western supplier perspective, it’s somewhat irrelevant.”
While the defense and security UAV market will see major growth over the coming years, the commercial drone industry will grow exponentially, he added.