A Booming Market for UAVs

air_uav_hermes_450_overland_lgAccording to a report by Visiongain, more than $71 billion will be spent on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) between 2010 and 2020, based not only on increasing demand in the U.S. market, currently the lion’s share of worldwide UAV shares, but also on growing demand from Western Europe, Israel, India, China and Japan.

“Armed forces worldwide are embracing unmanned aerial vehicles as critical tools for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR),” reads the report.

UAV systems covered in the report vary widely in terms of size and mission, and include those that merely weigh “half a kilogram to those with wings as wide as a jetliner. Global spending in 2009 on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) reached $5.1bn. Over the forecast period of 2010-2020, the cumulative UAV market will total nearly $71bn.”

While some analysts predict the market for high-altitude UAVs (those flying from 15,000 to 30,000 feet) will stagnate, that’s because that category is dominated by a few aircraft like the Predator, Reaper and Heron, made famous through widespread use in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem is that these aircraft are manufactured by one company operating at full capacity with the government buying everything produced, making that segment of the market closed and stagnant.

However, the broader UAV market is wide open, and getting bigger, especially since a key FAA decision opened the door to the potential use of UAVs in civilian airspace.  The Boeing ScanEagle UAV that began civilian “see-and-avoid” testing in June, has a 10-foot wingspan and is man-portable, and could be used to support police, border patrol, and even monitoring forest fires.

So while it’s not really possible for your firm to start manufacturing the Predator UAVs that are so critical to military efforts in Afghanistan, the market for new and innovative applications for UAVs is wide open, and since the market for UAVs was worth $5 billion in 2009 and is only going to grow, investing in these capabilities is a smart move for any aerospace company.

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