Global Fuel Cell UAV Market - Segmented by Geography - Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2018 - 2023)
The global fuel cell UAV market is anticipated to register a CAGR of over 6% during the forecast period. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is one of the cutting edge systems in the aviation industry, which has gained much popularity in military, civilian, and commercial applications. With technological advancements, the UAV market has been witnessing the popularity of eco-friendly propulsion systems, such as, fuel cells and solar cells. Designing lightweight UAV is one of the challenges being faced by the market, as it has been observed that an average UAV has a power source and fuel that typically account for about 35-65% of the vehicle’s weight, whereas, for small UAVs, it is around 38-40%. UAV manufacturers have been consistently striving to decrease the weight of vehicles, while simultaneously achieving fuel efficiency and abiding by the respective country’s UAV regulations.
Increase in Investment from the Military Unmanned Aircraft Sector
Recently UAVs are becoming one of the most significant weapons in the military's arsenal. Simultaneously, the number of civil and commercial UAV applications also is growing. The defense of U.S. has brought about new technology requirements for next-generation UAVs. The rule makers in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington and other aviation authorities around the globe also are feeling pressure to permit at least limited non-military UAV operations in civilian airspace.
By the end of next decade, the UAV industry would be anticipated to be approximately USD 10 billion, combining manufacturing, sales, jobs, etc., in the U.S. During the next two years, the FAA to finally set privacy rules for small UAVs, responding to a lot more pressure from manufacturers and from state and local governments. By 2025, the UAV are expected to be much bigger, delivering pesticides for agriculture, packages for Amazon and others, which means going from a nascent market at present to a multi-billion dollar industry in a decade or less.
The fuel cell technology suppliers for UAV manufacturers are competing fiercely in the market, to achieve long flight endurance. In 2016, H3 dynamics launched HYWINGS, a hydrogen fuel cell UAV, which was capable of a ten-hour flying duration and covered up to 500 km. HES Energy Systems, a subsidiary of H3 Dynamics, was successful in providing aerospace-grade fuel cell technology that is 3-5 times lighter than lithium batteries. Currently, HES Energy Systems is working on the field-refueling systems as accessories to different UAV platforms, particularly fuel cell propulsion UAV. There exist major players, like Elbit Systems, which has also successfully experimented using Horizon Energy Systems’ Aeropak fuel cell technology in its Skylark(r) I-LE UAS model in 2010, and plans to supply more, based on the emerging demand in the market.
Key Developments in the Market
December 2017: Ballard Power Systems has developed a next-generation, high-performance fuel cell propulsion system to power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
March 2017: Intelligent Energy has made a deal with PINC to supply its air-cooled fuel cell systems for unmanned aerial vehicles, marking Intelligent Energy’s first sale of fuel cell systems for UAVs as the company grow fast with the commercialization of its technologyMajor Players: AEROVIRONMENT, ELBIT SYSTEMS, ISRAEL AEROSPACE CORPORATION, amongst others.
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