The Electric unmanned aerial vehicle (E-UAV) market is anticipated to register a CAGR of over 12% during the forecast period.
- For several years, the UAV market had been in the nascent phase, facing a lack of adoption in the commercial sector. Although they were initially viewed as military devices, drones have established a significant presence in the commercial sector over the past five years. Over the years, with several new exemptions from governing bodies, like FAA and EASA, the demand for UAVs has emerged from various industries, like infrastructure, agriculture, transport, entertainment, security, and insurance.
- Advancements in UAV flight technologies have allowed manufacturers to produce a wide range of models in different sizes, weights, and shapes, which can carry different sensor payloads, making them favorable across a broad application base.
- However, factors such as the power limitations of batteries, and associated safety concerns with UAVs are anticipated to restrict the growth of the E-UAV market to a certain extent.
Key Market Trends
Preferred Integration of Alternative Power Systems for UAVs
The continuous use of such non-renewable energy sources such as gasoline and jet fuel makes them scarce and expensive owing to their limited supply. Hence, owing to the depletion of fossil fuels, researchers are looking for alternative sources of fuel that will help power UAVs. The continuous improvement in technology and involvement from various industry leaders have made the development of fuel cells for UAV successful. For instance, China-based MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology developed a military drone, HyDrone 1800, which features a next-gen hydrogen technology that allows it to operate in extreme weather conditions with efficiency. The drone performs functions, such as intelligence gathering, border patrol, aerial fire support, laser designation, and battle management services. The inclination toward deploying UAVs has also contributed to the growth of solar-powered UAVs. Various defense contractors across the globe have either developed or are on the verge of developing necessary capabilities to offer solar-powered UAVs that can augment the existing intelligence competencies of military organizations. Moreover, the defense departments of various countries are taking key interests in the advancement of solar-powered UAVs. For instance, in May 2016, the France MoD granted USD 18.95 million to Thales Alenia Space (a subsidiary of Thales) for the development of stratospheric HALE remotely controlled solar-powered airship. Similarly, in February 2016, the UK MoD signed a contract of USD 15.21 million with the Airbus Defence and Space, a business segment of Airbus, for the procurement of two solar-powered HAPS UAVs, namely Zephyr 8. Such contracts are expected to drive the development of alternative power systems for UAVs that can deliver next-generation battlefield intelligence capabilities to the military forces.
North America to Dominate the Market During the Forecast Period
The vast expanse of geographic national borders of countries such as the US necessitates deployment of UAVs to ensure continuous coverage in the regions that are unreachable by patrol forces. The need has resulted in a subsequent increase in demand for E-UAVs with enhanced endurance and lower operational costs to fulfill the operational requirements of the US border patrol forces. Furthermore, the significant deployment of tactical UAVs in military and defense applications has resulted in increased procurement of small UAVs. Since small UAS are powered by some sort of electric power system, the augmented procurement rate would drive the E-UAV market in the region. The US military and its partners are widening their scope of drone operations to include logistics missions such as resupply to forces in enemy territories or remote locations. Unique design features are empowering alternative uses for UAVs. The US Department of Defense (DoD) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are investing heavily in the R&D of advanced engine and associative components for military UAVs, which will replace the existing propulsion systems. The growing demand for UAVs has resulted in the emergence of several business opportunities in the region and numerous contracts are being handed out to cater to the broad clientele.
The sales of technology-based platforms such as UAVs are primarily influenced by the prevalent economic situations in dominant markets such as the US and Europe. Hence, in periods of economic downturn, purchases may be subjected to deferral or cancellation and a relatively slower rate of adoption, which in turn, can adversely affect the market dynamics. Product innovation is a primary focus in the E-UAV market and associative component vendors are continuously investing in R&D activities to enhance their product offering. For instance, in January 2018, Ballard Power Systems announced its plans to carry out test flights with Boeing subsidiary Insitu of the latest 1.3kW hydrogen-powered fuel cell. The company plans to integrate it on the ScanEagle UAV. Besides featuring an extended lifetime, the new fuel cell features an increased charge density without a significant increase in its size or weight profile. The market players intend to devote significant resources and efforts for capitalizing on the technological proficiency of UAVs and enhance their penetration into the rapidly evolving commercial segment of the E-UAV market. It is anticipated that diversification of geographical markets, in tandem with the product offerings would be a key criterion for ensuring profitability and survival in the long run.
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