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Unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones) can be operated remotely by a pilot or by using pre-programmed schedules or automation systems, allowing them to fly autonomously. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are a class of aircraft that can fly without the onboard presence of pilots. Unmanned aircraft systems consist of the aircraft component, sensor payloads, and a ground control station. They can be controlled by onboard electronic equipment or via control equipment from the ground. When it is remotely controlled from the ground, it is called RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle) and requires reliable wireless communication for control.
This growth is primarily driven by the rising adoption of UAVs in civil and commercial applications, increasing deployment of UAVs in border patrolling and combating terrorism, and exemptions made by the regulatory authorities around the globe to permit the use of UAVs in several industries. In addition, increased deployment of UAVs to carry out aerial remote sensing and growing defense budgets of major economies also provides significant opportunities for unmanned aerial vehicles market stakeholders.
However, lack of proper air traffic management for UAVs, possible threats to safety and violation of privacy, and lack of skilled & trained personnel to operate UAVs are some of the key challenges faced by OEMs. Further, the technical limitations of UAVs are likely to hinder the market growth to some extent.
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Market
The COVID-19 has emerged as a global pandemic resulting in countrywide lockdowns and slowing down of economies. Under this scenario, multiple facets of life have been affected, ranging from consumer products to industrial activities. In these circumstances, where human activities have been limited and restricted due to the outbreak, UAVs have emerged as a major utility product. Various UAVs, from small to large, are being used for a vast array of applications, proving that public and private organizations can incorporate UAVs as a tool for planning and preparation for similar situations in the future.
To disinfect public spaces and avoid further spread of COVID-19, health authorities are deploying UAVs to conduct tasks such as spraying disinfectants in potentially infected areas. These spraying UAVs are filled with disinfectants, cover much more area in less time, and are 50 times faster than conventional methods. According to DJI (China), one of the world’s largest UAV makers, a spraying UAV can hold about 16 liters of disinfectant and cover an area of 100,000 square meters in an hour. Such UAVs are easy to use, affordable, and can be quickly mobilized, in addition to reducing the risk of exposure to health and sanitation workers. Due to its benefits, some countries successfully used disinfecting UAVs to control the spread of COVID-19.
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China is the home of major consumer electronics manufacturers. After the outbreak of COVID-19, many technology sectors faced new challenges in the supply chain. China has made the world heavily dependent on its manufacturing capabilities. However, after the WHO’s official announcement of the coronavirus outbreak in January 2020, exports from China reduced significantly. As a result, UAV industries worldwide that are dependent on imports of battery, gimbal, camera, or a small piece of plastic manufactured from China suffered severe setbacks. For instance, U.S.-based Skydio, which assembles UAVs suffered from supply-chain disruption caused by the slowdown in manufacturing of the parts.
Growing defense budgets of major economies to drive the growth of the UAV market
The defense budgets of major economies such as the U.S., China, India, Germany, the U.K., France, and Russia, have confirmed a remarkable growth in recent years. The increasing defense spending on the development of combat capabilities contributes to the higher demand for UAVs in military applications. For instance, the U.S. defense budget in 2019 had increased by 4.9% to USD 717 billion as the government continues its efforts to modernize capabilities in the air, maritime, and land domains. The U.S. has embarked on military modernization to retain its status as the world’s military super-power. Allocations have been made to enable the introduction of nuclear security and missile defense programs. In this budget, USD 7 billion funding is allocated for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Further, China is focusing on enhancing its defense sector with the assistance of government funding. In 2019, China’s government spent USD 177.61 billion on upgrading combat capabilities and improving armed forces infrastructure. Similarly, India is also involved in spending a significant amount on its infrastructure and defense systems. Indian defense spending had increased by 8% in 2019, driven by anti-terrorism and territorial initiatives. In 2019, India had spent around USD 61 billion on its defense sector. This budget allocation will allow the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to procure UAVs, fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles, warships, and submarines.
The South Korean defense budget had increased by 8.2% to $42 billion in 2019, recording the highest annual rise since 2008. More than 65% of the budget is allocated to the maintenance of troops and military equipment. South Korea’s military budget relies primarily on building and enhancing its defensive capability to combat external threats.
Thus, the growing defense budget and spending on the procurement of UAVs and military equipment have created a significant opportunity for growth in the UAVs market.
To provide efficient analysis, Meticulous Research® has segmented the overall UAV market based on component (hardware and software), class (small UAVs, strategic & tactical UAVs, and special purpose UAVs), type (fixed wing, fixed-wing VTOL UAVs, and rotary-wing UAVs), capacity (less than 25 kilograms UAVs, between 25-170 kilograms UAVs, and greater than 170 kilograms UAVs), mode of operation (remotely operated UAVs, semi-autonomous UAVs, and fully autonomous UAVs), end user (military, commercial, law enforcement, agriculture, energy & power, construction & mining, media & advertising, wildlife & forestry, insurance, and others), and geography (Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa).
Based on component, the hardware commanded the largest share of the overall unmanned aerial vehicles market in 2020. The growth in this market is mainly driven by the growing need for replacement, upgradation, and modification of the drone hardware components to increase the lifespan and performance of UAVs. However, the software segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Based on class, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is categorized into small UAVs, strategic & tactical UAVs, and special purpose UAVs. In 2020, the small UAV segment commanded the largest share of the overall unmanned aerial vehicles market. This is primarily attributed to the multiple applications carried out by small UAVs, such as law enforcement, wildlife survey, disaster management, logistics & transportation, and inventory management. In addition, several countries are looking to increase their military surveillance capabilities, with major investments being made in the development of small UAVs. Military forces across the world are procuring small UAVs for different military missions. Over the years, regulations have also been changing for the commercial usage of UAVs in certain countries, which has increased the procurement of UAVs by civilians. Also, the small UAVs segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Based on type, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is categorized into fixed-wing UAVs, fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs, and rotary-wing UAVs. In 2020, the rotary-wing UAVs segment commanded the largest share of the unmanned aerial vehicles market. The large share of this market is mainly attributed to its greater maneuverability and compact design, easy-to-use nature, higher payload capacity, and comparatively lower price than the other types of drones. Besides, these drones require less aerial space; and can hover mid-flight. However, the fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
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Based on capacity, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is categorized into less than 25 kilograms UAVs, between 25-170 kilograms UAVs, and greater than 170 kilograms UAVs. In 2020, the less than 25 kilograms segment commanded the largest share of the unmanned aerial vehicles market. The large share of this market is mainly attributed to the growing demand in applications such as monitoring, surveying & mapping, aerial remote sensing, and product delivery. However, the greater than 170 Kilograms UAVs segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Based on mode of operation, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is categorized into remotely operated UAVs, semi-autonomous UAVs, and fully autonomous UAVs. In 2020, the remotely operated UAVs segment commanded the largest share of the overall unmanned aerial vehicles market. The large share of this market is mainly attributed to their capabilities of the emergency landing, disconnecting recovery, and emergency handover between control channels. However, the fully autonomous UAV segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Based on end-user, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is mainly segmented into military, commercial, law enforcement, agriculture, energy & power, construction & mining, media & advertising, wildlife & forestry, insurance, and others. In 2020, the military end-user commanded the largest share of the unmanned aerial vehicles market. This is primarily attributed to the increasing demand for autonomous UAVs for intelligence, defense, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Moreover, various critical operations such as border surveillance and terrorism combat also demand the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles. However, the commercial end-user segment is expected to grow with the fastest CAGR during the forecast period.
Based on geography, the unmanned aerial vehicles market is categorized into five major geographies, namely, North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. In 2020, the North American region accounted for the largest share of the global unmanned aerial vehicles market. The region’s large share is attributed to the presence of major UAV manufacturing companies and their focus on developing advanced UAV technology and increasing government funding on UAVs for border surveillance and maritime activities. In addition, favorable government initiatives regarding the advancement in drone technology coupled with the increasing demand for drone-acquired data from businesses will further drive North American UAV market growth. However, the Asia Pacific region is expected to grow at the fastest CAGR during the forecast period.
In North America, the U.S. commanded largest share of the unmanned aerial vehicles market in 2020. The market growth is due to the increasing adoption of UAVs by state departments of transportation and healthcare industries; initiatives taken by the online retail companies for the adoption of small UAVs for delivering packages to their customers; and increasing usage of drones for recreational use across the country.
The growth in this market is mainly driven by the increasing adoption of UAVs by state departments of transportation, healthcare industries; initiatives taken by the online retail companies for the adoption of small UAVs for delivering the packages to their customers; and increasing usage of drones for recreational use across the country. For instance, as of December 10, 2019, there were 1,509,617 drones registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as compared to 900,000 drones registered in 2018. This includes 1,085,392 recreational drones and 420,340 commercial drones, as well as 160,748 certified remote pilots. Besides, the increasing adoption of drones by state departments of transportation offers new growth avenues to the UAV market players in the country. For instance, according to a survey conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, around 80% of state departments of transportation were utilizing drones by 2018 for monitoring the progress of highway construction projects, surveying new sites, inspecting bridges, emergency response, and more.
Further, the U.S. is the home to the largest retailers in the world. Over the past years, online retail has witnessed rapid growth in the U.S. Service providers find it difficult at times to manage deliveries. For online retailers in busy cities, where traffic is a major concern, drones (small UAVs) are the best possible solution. Thus, some companies are planning to use drones to distribute various parcels and other retail items to customers. For instance, in 2019, after getting approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration to test their latest delivery drones, Amazon announced that it would start delivering packages via drones in the U.S.
The global unmanned aerial vehicles market is mainly dominated by the top five players, namely General Atomics (U.S.), Northrop Grumman Corporation (U.S.), The Boeing Company (U.S.), BAE Systems plc (U.K.), and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (Israel). The other players operating in the unmanned aerial vehicles market include Elbit Systems Ltd. (Israel), AeroVironment, Inc. (U.S.), Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.), Parrot S.A.(France), Microdrones GmbH (Germany), PrecisionHawk Inc. (U.S.), SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd (China), 3D Robotics, Inc. (U.S.), Textron Inc. (U.S.), Aeronautics Ltd. (Israel), Saab AB (Sweden), EHang Holdings Limited (China), Raytheon Technologies Corporation (U.S.), Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (Turkey), Yuneec International Co., Ltd. (China), and Primoco UAV SE (Czech Republic). These players continuously focus on agreements, collaborations, partnerships; new product development and launches; and expansions to increase their respective market shares.
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