Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), also commonly referred as drone, is a type of an aircraft that does not have any passengers or pilot onboard. It is either operated remotely by a human pilot, or by an onboard computer, or controlled autonomously. Small UAVs are mainly classified based on their size, and typically are the ones with a wingspan of less than 2 meters. These UAVs are small enough to be carried and operated by a single person. Small UAVs can be hand-launched, can have vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), or short take-off and landing (STOL) capability. Majority of the small UAVs as of 2015 are either electric-powered or solar-powered. A few of them are also powered by fuel (mostly the ones in military and defense applications). Most of the small UAVs are hand launched (thrown in air by hand) and many of the configurations in this category are based on the fixed-wing platform.
The global small UAV market is expected to reach billion by 2021, to grow at a CAGR of around 7%. Small UAVs can mainly be classified as mini-UAV and micro-UAV. They are small enough to be carried and operated by a single person. During military operations, they can be launched as a portable air-defense system by infantrymen. The development of small UAVs mainly began in 1997, with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA’s) multi-year USD 35 million project to develop micro air vehicles (MAVs).
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Major Key Players
AeroVironment, Inc. (US),
BAE Systems (UK),
Elbit Systems Ltd. (Israel),
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (Israel),
Lockheed Martin (US),
Prox Dynamics (Norway),
SAAB (Sweden), and Thales Group (France).
According to MRFR, The global Small UAV market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 6% during the forecast period.
Market Driving Factors
One of the drivers for global small UAV market is the rise in demand for civil or commercial applications. Improvements in technology and economical acquisition and operation have led to the rapid growth of commercial small UAVs market. Commercial UAVs are being used for surveying, aerial photography, oil & gas pipeline monitoring, 3D mapping, wind turbine blade inspection, and many other similar applications. Furthermore, emerging markets in Asia Pacific, South America, and the Middle East have prioritized the increased utilization of UAVs, mainly for military applications, which have helped the market growth.
However, many of the small UAVs are used in military applications, including ISR and spy missions. Thus, with the ongoing defense budget cuts in the U.S. and economic slowdown in Europe, it is expected that it could affect the military small UAV market to some extent. Also, most of the small operational UAVs as of 2015 are electric-powered by batteries. One of the major challenges with these electric-powered UAVs is their limited battery life and flight range.
The majority of the world small UAV market is mainly for military and defense applications and is dominated by the U.S. The majority of demand is owing to its applications in the military and defense sector, and the US army is the single largest buyer of UAVs worldwide. However, increasing demand for the emerging economies has shown interest in implementation of UAVs for border security and surveillance functions. The Middle East is one of the emerging markets with Israel a major manufacturer and exporter of UAVs. Asia Pacific is also expected to show substantial growth in the future, mainly dominated by the demand from China. With the expansion of its military capabilities, China has given more importance to the utilization of UAVs for major military operations and has prioritized the further development of indigenous systems. The government of China further plans to use UAVs for patrol and coastal surveillance extensively.
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