North America Small UAV Market Segmented by Type, by Propulsion System, and by Geography Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2018 - 2023)
The North American small UAV market is likely to grow from USD 391.78 million in 2017 to USD 821.20 million by 2023. The industry is expected to register a CAGR of over 9.25% over the forecast period.
Increased Military Spending
Military expenditure is likely to remain the primary driver of the market during the forecast period. Used as target decoys for combat missions, research and development, and supervision, small UAVs have become part and parcel of the military forces worldwide. The ability of these UAVs to aid in ISR missions, aerial surveillance, and tactical operations is driving its augmented adoption. Small UAVs are expected to continue to be applied in various military services, due to their high convenience in reducing losses and enabling the execution of high-profile and time-sensitive missions. The larger unmanned aerial vehicles, such as HALE, MALE, etc., are used mainly by the military in combat operations, which require aerial vehicles to have a long range. Their advantages are limited in short-range and extremely covert operations, as the larger UAVs have a more significant heat signature.
Increasing Commercial Applications
The commercial usage of small UAVs is gaining steady momentum and has become the talk of the hour, as multiple industries are working with drones, as a part of their day-to-day business functions. Small UAVs provide several applications in the commercial sector. Some of them include aerial photography, express shipping and delivery, gathering information or supplying essentials for disaster management, geographic mapping of inaccessible terrain and locations, building safety inspections, precision crop monitoring, unmanned cargo transport, law enforcement and border control surveillance, storm tracking, and forecasting hurricanes and tornadoes. Although the commercial drone industry is still young, it has begun to see some consolidation and significant investments from industrial conglomerates, chip companies, IT consulting firms, and major defence contractors. Customization of small UAVs is comparatively cheaper, thus enabling new functionalities in a wide array of niche spaces. Sophisticated drones could soon be doing everyday tasks, such as fertilizing crop fields on an automated basis, monitoring traffic incidents, surveying hard-to-reach places, or even delivering pizzas.
Increased Demand for UAV from ISR
The significant growth in the demand for SUAV has led to an increase in the innovation of sophisticated, persistent surveillance sensors. The ability of the UAVs to aid ISR missions, aerial surveillance, and tactical operations drives its augmented adoption. The changing global security environment has led to the provision of a significant boost to intelligence, survey, and reconnaissance (ISR). Further developments, like command controls in the UAVs, have increased their demand for ISR missions. Furthermore, UAVs are much cheaper than modern aircraft and help eliminate the risk of losing a pilot. It has been acknowledged that the military operations carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq were successful due to the ISR contributions made by UAVs. The military drones represent the future of national security for every country. The increasing technological sophistication and lower costs have led to dramatic market shifts.
The growth of the SUAV market could, however, be affected by certain restraints during the forecast period. These factors include strict airspace regulations across substantial countries of the world, especially the US, where FAA pioneered in setting rules for commercial use of drones in the region. UAVs are required to fly either with a military or an ad-hoc Civil Aviation Authority exemption or in segregated airspace. Additionally, the entry of new players is restricted in the defence segment of many countries around the world, due to the strong safety and regulatory policies and requirements.
There is a lack of legislation and regulations for safe flight in the integrated airspace. A whole range of legislative and regulatory measures need to be designed, mutually agreed upon, and then implemented. These rules will be founded upon specific essential technologies, the most notable being a reliable, light, low-power and cost-effective Sense and Avoid (S&A) system, which would eliminate the possibility of a mid-air collision between manned or unmanned aircraft.
Key Developments in the Market:
July 2017: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed a strategic teaming agreement for industrial cooperation for SUAV systems with Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom Systems in India.
October 2017: The Federal Aviation Administration has selected a small group of companies, including Thales, to support their effort to simplify the process for small UAS operators, to comply with the current US regulations, and safely integrate their operations into the US National Airspace System.
Key Players: Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Thales SA, Boeing Corporation, AeroVironment, BAE Systems Plc, among others.
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