The autonomous aircraft market is estimated to register a CAGR of over 8% during the forecast period, 2020 - 2025.
- Growing usage of artificial intelligence technology is expected to increase the autonomy of the aircraft, thereby propelling the growth of the market in the coming years.
- The airline industry is now facing a shortage of pilots, and the adoption of autonomous aircraft can address this issue in the near future.
- Increasing development of autonomous aircraft for civil aviation due to the associated benefits, such as safety, reliability, and affordability can lead to growth of the market in the coming years.
Key Market Trends
Autonomous Cargo Aircraft Expected to Hit the Market Earlier than the Autonomous Passenger Aircraft
Cargo planes are expected to be the first to adopt this autonomous aircraft technology. In passenger flights, safety and the lives of people are given the paramount importance, and thus, the adoption of the autonomous aircraft should start after continuous and rigorous testing is done. This is not the case with the cargo aircraft, as the level of life risk is zero with the use of autonomous aircraft in cargo planes. Additionally, the growth in the e-commerce industry is driving the air cargo demand, which may increase the demand for air cargo pilots in the near future. Hence, most of the developments in the autonomous aircraft market are aimed at bringing the autonomous cargo aircraft into commercial use, to fill in the gap due to the pilot shortage. Boeing’s futuristic NeXt division oversees its heavy-duty drone prototype that is capable of lifting a 500-pound payload. The so-called “cargo air vehicle” conducted its first indoor flight test last year, and may move to outdoor testing in 2019. Many such developments are currently underway, and these are expected to help the autonomous cargo aircraft to be introduced into the market within the next decade.
North America is Expected to Witness the Highest Growth During the Forecast Period
North America currently has the highest market share in the autonomous aircraft market, due to the high number of procurements of tactical autonomous UAVs in the region. Additionally, various developments in the North America region, in terms of autonomous aircraft may lead to the region being the fastest growing one. Currently, the United States is increasingly focused on the development of autonomous aircraft. The United States has hit a roadblock in the usage of such aircraft for commercial applications, due to governmental regulations, but the growing scale of autonomous aircraft development may lead to its growth in the coming years. Technological advancement, which is high in countries, like the United States, has led to the development of advanced autonomous aircraft, which can adapt to changing conditions, as well as handle flying situations, without any human intervention. Likewise, in the near future, autonomous aircraft can also increasingly be used for the transportation of cargo, and North America is expected to be the pioneer to all these. Thus, various ongoing developments may lead to the growth of the industry in North America in the near future.
The Boeing Company, Airbus SE, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Textron Inc. (Bell Helicopters), and BAE Systems plc are some of the prominent players in the market. Most of the development in the autonomous aircraft technology is done in the UAV industry, and the market still trails development in passenger and cargo carrying aircraft. Companies, like Airbus SE and The Boeing Company, have presented their autonomous air taxi concepts recently, and many companies are yet to follow. Bell, a unit of Textron Inc., is also working on its autonomous pod transport. Thus, the market is expanding to the commercial transportation sector, and the relatively new concepts are opening many opportunities for players to venture into the market.
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