The global market for military robotics will grow from US$5.8 billion in 2010 to more than US$8 billion in 2016, according to a new study by ABI Research.
Between 50 and 80 countries either have military robots in service or are in the process of building or acquiring the technology for their militaries, according to ABI.
The company says the factors driving the demand for military robotics include the desire to reduce or prevent military casualties; the need for new reconnaissance, combat and other machines to deal with changing tactics (such as bomb disposal robots); the need to reduce military spending; and developments in the fields of military science, computing and sensor technology that is creating more advanced robots.
“While the use of semi-autonomous or autonomous robots can improve military efficiency, accuracy, and operational performance, the overriding return on investment for these systems is the ability to reduce the likelihood of injury or death,” says Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen, ABI Research’s emerging technologies research division.
However, there are also factors working against the growth of military robots. Some of these factors are the weak economic climate that is deleterious to military spending; a lack of active military conflicts around the world; and ethical concerns about using robots in conflict situations.
Weak economic conditions are not a major concern in developed countries, ABI says, thus even the most expensive robot systems are far less expensive than equivalent manned systems. “ABI Research projects that the market for military robots will remain healthy throughout the forecast period and beyond, with even greater opportunities opening up by the end of the decade, driven by technological advances and a growing, real-world track record of tangible benefits offered by these systems,” Fisher says.
ABI’s forecast covers the entire market for defence robotics, focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs); and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for the period of 2010 through 2016.
The UAV market is leading expanding military robotics market and is estimated to be worth nearly US$71 billion between 2010 and 2020, according to ASDReports, which also noted that UAV spending in 2009 reached US$5.1 billion. Meanwhile, the UGV market was estimated to be worth US$418 million in 2010, according to VisionGain. The company said in 2009 that the global UUV market will see total revenues of US$8.83 billion by 2020 while the global UGV market will reach US$1.35 billion in the same period.