Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) continue as the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry this decade, according to a new study released by Teal Group, a market analysis firm based in Fairfax, Va. New unmanned combat aerial vehicle programs, commercial, and consumer spending all promise to drive more than a tripling of the market over the next decade.
Teal Group's 2015 market study estimates that UAV production will soar from current worldwide production of $4 billion annually to $14 billion, totaling $93 billion in the next ten years. Military UAV research spending would add another $30 billion over the decade.
This year's study includes consumer UAVs for the first time because of their rapid growth and the blurring of the commercial and consumer markets. "Consumer UAVs are showing that they can do many of the easier commercial missions such as simple real estate photography," said Philip Finnegan, Teal Group's director of corporate analysis and an author of the study.
"Our 2015 UAV study calculates the market at 72 percent military, 23 percent consumer, 5 percent civil cumulative for the decade,” Finnegan said. Of the three areas, civil UAVs grow most rapidly over the forecast period as airspace around the world is opened, but it grows from a very low base.
"The Teal Group study predicts that the U.S. will account for 64 percent of total military worldwide Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation spending on UAV technology over the next decade, and about 38 percent of the military procurement," said Teal Group senior analyst Steve Zaloga, another author of the study.
The 2015 study provides 10-year funding and production forecasts for a wide range of UAV payloads, including Electro-Optic/Infrared Sensors (EO/IR), Synthetic Aperture Radars, Signals Intelligance, Electronic Warfare and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, & Intelligence) systems. These payloads are forecast to double in value from $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2015 to $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2024. EO/IR is still the default sensor for the vast majority of UAVs, but recent years have seen up-and-down funding and considerable uncertainty, as legacy endurance UAV production has ended.
New sensor markets will see great increases as radio frequency (RF) systems supplant EO/IR capabilities, and next-generation UAVs at all scales require much more sophisticated - and expensive - sensors. "Rapidly increasing capabilities for RF sensors will be funded, as potential conflicts shift from clear-skies Central Asia to the more restrictive geographies of Eastern Europe and the Pacific," according to David Rockwell, author of the electronics portion of the new study.
"UAVs will continue to provide the world's fastest-growing aerospace payload market, but not through continued growth of 'the usual suspects' from the past decade. Instead, new sensor programs for current and future air vehicles will result in more unexpected growth spurts and losses. We now forecast a number of speculative new programs in the out-years, including estimates of classified programs. Wise companies will plan today for growth tomorrow," according to Rockwell.
"UAVs are no longer of interest only to aerospace companies, but increasingly technology companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon see a need to be in the market," said Finnegan.