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Military drones market trends

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) ( commonly known as a drone) is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers referred to as an autopilot.


Compared to crewed aircraft, UAVs were originally used for missions too “dull, dirty or dangerous” for humans. The UAVs have become one of the essential constituents of all militaries to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, suppression or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, combat search and rescue, and many others.


The main types of military drones are fixed-wing, rotary-wing and hybrid. A fixed-wing drone is a plane that doesn’t have a human pilot on platform. Fixed-wing UAVs can be commanded remotely by a human or autonomously by onboard systems. The different types of drones include MALE, HALE, TUAV, UCAV, SUAV and involves various technologies such as remotely operated, semi-autonomous, autonomous.


Drones are used by the military, for everything from surveillance to lethal intervention and transport. Hundreds of companies are currently working on drone technology on both a small and large scale, and state and non-state actors are looking to integrate drones into their military programmes.


Now, the Ukraine conflict has become a showroom and test bed for the latest drone technology from different countries. Russia is believed to be employing Iranian drones, including the Shahed series, which can carry small missiles. Also called the Geranium-2 by Russia, it has explosives in a warhead on its nose and is designed to loiter over a target until it is instructed to attack. The Shahed-136 has a wingspan of about 2.5m (8.2ft) and can be hard to detect on radar.


Ukraine’s main military drone is the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2. It is about the size of a small plane, has cameras on board, and can be armed with laser-guided bombs. At the outset of the war, Ukraine had a fleet of “fewer than 50” of these, says Dr Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) think-tank. The US said it is sending Ukraine 700 Switchblade drones, which are also kamikaze drones.


NATO distinguishes between several types of military drones. The most significant sector, both tactically and in terms of the market, is that of MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) drones. Initially dominated by the Americans, with the General Atomics Predator, the first examples were delivered in 1995 and were armed in the early 2000s. For a long time, they had a monopoly with 360 units delivered (mainly to the US armed forces), but were gradually replaced by the Reaper, of which more than 300 units were delivered to the US armed forces. Allies of the United States – mainly but not exclusively within NATO – have acquired several dozen models.


Military drones market

The global military drones market is expected grow from $ 13.31 billion in 2021 to $ 14.19 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6%. The market is expected to reach $ 18.30 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 6.6%.


Increasing focus on advanced C4ISR capabilities to drive the military drone market growth during the forecast period. Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) solutions are used to reinforce, boost, or implement command and control strategies and directives within military and intelligence frameworks. The success of any air, naval, or military operation hugely depends on the ISR capabilities. So, there are regular developments and advancements in the ISR field. For instance, the Fifth Generation C4ISR is a joint battle management system that can gather data, understand it, and communicate freely with all its components. C4ISR powered by AI uses machine learning to identify and classify tanks and other vehicles, improve the image feeds, and also provide driving assistance by giving early warnings on obstacles and changing ground conditions. Governments are also rapidly adopting these technologies to improve their defense arsenal.


Drone swarm technology is growing its popularity in the military drones market due to its cost efficiency and high fire-power. Drone swarms are a large group of small drones that coordinate with each other to perform actions such as a survey of enemy territories, search and rescue and attacks on hostile objects.



High Cost of Advanced Electronics and Modern Systems to Hinder Market Growth

UAVs are fully equipped with high-tech propulsion systems, avionics systems, advanced
flight management technology, modern sensors, and payloads. These parameters are
associated with sophisticated software and high-quality hardware systems depending
upon the severity of the operations. The deployment of military UAVs has a different
product portfolio for the army, air force, and navy, owing to different applications also
varying the overall cost of products.

These factors increase the final price of military drones across the globe. The huge product
as well as maintenance cost is expected to restrain future growth. Restrictions on the
deployment of UAVs in several countries and limited use in aerial spaces are also expected
to restrict future demand.


By Product Type Analysis

Fixed-Wing Segment to Hold Major Share Owing to its Increasing Use for Long Distance
Operations. In terms of product type, the market is divided into fixed wing, hybrid wing, and rotary wing.

The fixed-wing segment is estimated to hold the highest military drone market share in
2021 and continue its dominance throughout the forecast period. Fixed wing aerial
vehicles can typically carry greater payloads for longer distances and flying times while
using less power than VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) UAVs. This makes them ideal
for long-distance missions like mapping, surveillance, and defense, in which lengthy
endurance is critical and hence are significantly used in the defense sector by various
armed forces worldwide. These factors are predicted to propel the segment growth
through the projection period.

The rotary-wing segment is anticipated to showcase significant growth worldwide in the
coming years, owing to increasing development of quad-copters. Quad-copters are heavy
load carriers widely used for transportation and logistics applications across the globe.
Rotary wing drones are also used in tactical operations for Intelligence, Surveillance, and
Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.


Based on platform, the military drone market has been segmented into small, tactical, and strategic drones. The tactical segment witnessed strong growth in the market during the forecast period. Tactical drones fly at altitudes ranging between 3,000 meters and 8,000 meters and are principally used in military applications. They fill the gap between small drones and strategic drones by combining the flexibility of small platforms with high-end platforms. The increasing demand for tactical drones that can be hand-launched and have an endurance of about 2 hours with suitable payload capacities to provide the required surveillance information has led to the growth of the tactical drone segment of the military drone market for defense & government applications globally. Some examples of tactical drones are Sperwer Mk II by Safran Electronics and Defence (France) and Thunder B UAV by Blue Bird Aero Systems (Israel).

By Range Analysis

On the basis of range, the market is divided into the Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS),
Visual Line of Sight (VLOS), and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS).

The EVLOS segment is predicted to grow at a high CAGR during the forecast period owing
to wide adoption of EVLOS UAVs in proper battle management, electronic warfare, and
long-range missions to collect important information.

The VLOS range of drones commonly is used in applications such as fire emergency,
border patrol, and disaster relief & management. The BLOS segment is expected to grow substantially through the forecast period owing to the growing awareness regarding the technology is progressing toward advancement and commercialization. These types of UAVs can transport weapons, ammunition, and cargo to the targeted locations.


Growing Adoption of Remotely Operated UAVs for Military Operation to Drive Segment Growth

Based on end-user, the market is classified into semi-autonomous drones, remotely
operated drones, and autonomous drones. The remotely operated drone segment is projected to have the highest share in the market. during the forecast period. The majority of commissioned UAVs are operated remotely around the world due to rigorous government requirements for long-range autonomous flying.


For Command & control (C&C) and other telemetry systems, as well as radio communications, this technology is employed in military type of drones. The autonomous segment is projected to grow at the fastest CAGR during the forecast period. Several growing economies are focused on the innovation and development of autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to provide tactical and strategic services. The semi-autonomous segment will witness significant growth during 2022-2029. This growth is due to the rising preference on fixed range flight operations to gather vital


Based on launching mode, the catapult launcher segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.

Based on launching mode, the military drone market has been segmented into Vertical Take-off, Automatic Take-off and Landing, Catapult Launcher, and Hand Launched logistics and transportation. Among these, the catapult launcher segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The catapult launcher segment includes drones that are launched using a catapult launcher, which uses bungee cords to launch drones from confined spaces. This type of launching mode is ideal for a setup on a carrier ship where the space is limited. Usually, drones having MTOW < 150-kilogram capacity use this launching mode. Companies such as Elbit Systems (US), Lockheed Martin (US), Israel Aerospace Industries (Israel), Textron Systems (US), and Thales (France) manufacture drones that use the catapult launching mode for various military applications. BirdEye 650D, Scout, Orbiter family, Ranger, Stalker XE UAS, Silver Fox, and Aerosonde are some of the drones in this category


Drone swarm technology involves the production of several small cheap drones than one large expensive drone, therefore offering military drone manufacturers and end-users efficiency in terms of cost and time. With the use of advanced swarm technologies, military and armed forces can effectively carry out lethal drone strikes in multiple places at once.


Asia Pacific was the largest region in military drones market in 2021. Western Europe is expected to be the fastest growing region in the forecast period.


Propulsion Segment is Anticipated to Grow at High CAGR Due to Increase in Adoption of Turboprop Engine UAVs in Military

Based on the system, the market is categorized into avionics, airframe, payload,
propulsion, software, and others. The propulsion segment is projected to grow at a higher CAGR during 2021-2029, owing to the increasing demand for turboprop engines in military UAVs due to high durability.

The airframe segment held the highest market share in the base year. It will remain the leading segment throughout the forecast period. The growth of this segment is due to the growing adoption of UAVs for various military operations such as surveillance, monitoring, reconnaissance, and combat operations.

The avionics segment is projected to grow significantly due to the integration of modern
electronics system, automated flight management system, and path control.
Payload segment is expected to grow throughout the projection period. The growth of the
segment is attributed to growing incorporation of payloads such as cameras, radar,
sensors, weapons, and others into the UAVs for performing various functions.

By Application Analysis

ISR Segment to Lead the Market Due to Rising Awareness to Strengthen the Defense System
The market is segmented into Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance and Targeting
(ISRT), logistics & transportation, combat operations, battle damage management, and
others based on application.
The ISRT segment is expected to hold a leading position during the forecast period. The
growth of the segment is attributed to the role of UAVs in the defense industry rather than
combat operations. These flying machines are designed to crucial information and collect
data of the targeted territory or terrorist area.
The air force, navy, army, and other security agencies have been using unmanned aerial
vehicles for applications such as transportation and logistics for the past few years. The
increase in demand for logistics and transportation is projected to fuel the market growth
in the coming years


Leading Companies include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed  Martin, Boeing, AeroVironment,  General Atomics, Textron, Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, Thales, China Aerospace Science And Technology Corporation, Aeronautics, BAE Systems, Ball Corporation, Airbus, IAI, AVIC, CASC, Raytheon, Saab, Leonardo S.P.A, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Orbital ATK Inc., Planet Labs Inc., VTOL Technologies


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