Commercial UAV market has $15.1 billion potential


The global unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market will be worth $15.1 billion by 2027, according to a new study.

Asif Anwar, Executive Director and expert on aerospace technologies at Strategy Analytics, which released the report, underlines that commercial UAV platforms and associated services will grow, thanks to demand emerging from agriculture, delivery services, media, entertainment and first responders sectors. Interestingly, agriculture, commercial security and first responder domains are expected to account for 49% of the demand by 2027.

The market is also expected to be driven by needs from Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America, as they should account for 83% of the overall demand. Asif Anwar predicts that “Israel, China, India, Japan and South Korea will be amongst the key end-markets contributing towards the Asia-Pacific commercial UAV market. Relaxation of regulations related to the use of commercial drones for business and civil applications, coupled with a concentration of drone manufacturers and services providers will support growth from the North American market which will be led by the US. Similarly, a commitment towards defining regulations that can support the increasing use of UAV platforms across multiple applications including agriculture, infrastructure monitoring and law enforcement will define growth in the European market. Russia, France, Germany, Poland and the U.K. are expected to be amongst the key European markets.”

Nevertheless, to reach this potential, favourable regulatory frameworks need to be implemented, as Asif Anwar, noted, but he is optimistic on that subject: “Numerous countries are implementing and adapting their regulations to traffic existing drone use as well as create an environment that will allow additional applications and use cases to prosper.”

In addition to these regulatory challenges, technical ones also have to be solved. Indeed, to integrate commercial UAV into the civilian airspace, technological devices will need to be implemented. We can think about the man machine interface (MMI), detect-and-avoid systems (DDA) or sense-and-avoid ones. Nevertheless, Asif Anwar estimates that “we are still at a relatively early stage of addressing these challenges but efforts are underway presently”, by referring to the German announcement to purchase the Northrop Grumman MQ-4 Triton UAV, the launch of Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 StarLiner UAV, and the General Atomics SkyGuardian MQ-9B , more compliant with regulations.

Demand for UAV sensors and technology is also expected to boom and Strategy Analytics expects this market to grow faster than the UAV platforms market itself. Indeed, Asif Anwar “forecasts the market for commercial UAV mission sensor payloads will grow at a CAGR of 35.0% to be worth almost $5 billion by 2027.” He adds that “Visual Camera (Still and Video) sensors are forecast to continue to account for the largest segment of the commercial UAV payload sensor market. As advances in technology enable multispectral and hyperspectral sensors to become smaller and more capable, while also becoming cheaper, the use of these sensors is expected to grow. Other technologies such LiDAR and radar will also find growing applications as the market for commercial UAV platforms grows.”

With this new market growing, consolidations and “new players entering the market to service local requirements” are expected. Strategy Analytics adds “This will include the introduction of indigenous drone platforms as well as companies providing services targeting the respective markets. […]We can expect that as the individual service sectors grow and we see companies such as Google and Amazon play a growing role, then the international nature of business will start to lead to consolidation but this is expected to start towards the end of the forecast period.”

Nevertheless, the UAV boom will have drawbacks. Let’s just think about the two shutdowns which occurred last December and January into Heathrow and Gatwick due to drone sightings. Misuses such as illicit goods trafficking into prisons or across, borders, and drug smuggling can also be expected, which raises the question of the fight against these practices.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.