The UAV payload and subsystems market is poised to grow at a CAGR of more than 12% during 2020 - 2025.

  • The military opportunities for UAVs greatly outpace their opportunities for commercial purposes, and countries are focusing on improving their inventory of weapons to counter any possible threat of attack owing to drones’ visual superiority and capability of performing pre-emptive strikes and surveillance on specific locations.
  • The emergence of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) and high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAV systems has been the vital game-changer for technologically superior nations. Unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are being extensively employed for suppression and destruction of enemy air defense; electronic attack; communication transfer; combat, search, and rescue; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations.

Key Market Trends

Sensor Miniaturization Driving New Market Opportunities

UAVs have emerged as indispensable aerial tools in modern combat scenarios due to their ability to provide high-resolution reconnaissance, long-distance precision strikes, and aerial combat engagement. Furthermore, the rapid technological growth has enabled technology developers to design miniaturized EO/IR payloads offering sufficient heat dissipation and conforming to industry standards, without compromising on performance. Owing to the tactical advantages, both defense and commercial operators in several countries have been investing in developing and procuring small drones with enhanced imaging capabilities. Miniaturization COTS technologies are providing low-ISR products for even the smallest UAVs in the market. On this note, in January 2017, the French DGA awarded a contract worth about USD 109 million to Thales Group for procurement of 105 Spy’ Rangers drones. In the same month, the DGA awarded a USD 6.32 million contract to AeroVironment for procuring mini drones. Also, in June 2019, the DGA received the first five of the 27 NX70 micro-UAV systems from Novadem. The NX70 weighs only 2.2lbs and offers a range of 1.8 miles or endurance of 45 minutes. The drone also integrates three cameras, two high-definition HD day cameras, and a thermal camera for uninterrupted all-weather operation. Furthermore, designers of infrared sensors for aerospace and defense applications are focusing their research efforts on EO and infrared (IR) sensors for multispectral sensing and imaging, improving the resolution of IR sensors to match those of visible-light sensors, blending IR sensors with laser range finders, and shrinking the size of IR sensor packages for unmanned vehicles and other miniature applications.

Besides, system integrators are keenly investing towards developing lightweight commercial off-the-shelf sensors and subsystems that can enhance the endurance of the UAVs. On this note, in September 2018, Yuneec International Co. Ltd. (Yuneec), in an effort to expand its current product portfolio of UAV payloads, launched the E10T. The E10T is an advanced thermal camera system featuring an all-in-one three-axis gimbal, dual thermal imaging and low light camera. The integrated camera is available in two variants - 320 by 256-pixel or 640 by 512-pixel thermal resolution, each with different lens options. The E10T camera is based on the Yuneec CGO-ET dual thermal RGB camera that was launched in 2017. From a performance perspective, the E10T captures more details in dark scenarios than the naked eye with the help of its large RGB sensor. The camera system can also transmit captured thermal and video image simultaneously to the ground station, which enables users, including emergency services, firefighters, and the police, to provide reliable and efficient air support in their operations. These developments are expected to fuel the growth of the market in focus during the forecast period.

North America Accounted for a Major Market Share in 2019

The geographical extent of the US border necessitates continuous coverage in certain regions that are physically inaccessible by patrol forces. This has resulted in a subsequent increase in the demand for drones with enhanced endurance and low operational costs due to the integration of high-performance, low-power remote navigation systems. Furthermore, the significant deployment of tactical drones in various military operations, including assault, tactical, and covert intelligence gathering, has boosted the demand for UAVs. Several military-grade UAV manufacturers are investing keenly towards integrating advanced sensors in their UAV offerings in an effort to enhance their flight characteristics. On this note, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), a part of General Atomics (GA), is developing the Due Regard Radar (DRR), an air-to-air radar comprising a twin-panel Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antenna and a Radar Electronics Assembly (REA) to enhance the UAVs capability to detect and track the enemy’s aerial asset across the Field-of-View (FOV) in a similar manner as to a manned aircraft. Such developments are envisioned to bolster the business opportunities for the market in focus during the forecast period.

Competitive Landscape

The UAV payload and subsystems market is characterized by the presence of limited dominant vendors operating at a global level. The market is highly competitive with players competing to gain the largest market share. Constraints associated with bandwidth allocation and SWaP characteristics of UAV payloads, endurance constraints, and the presence of dissimilar laws and regulations are key factors that impede the growth of the market. It is crucial for vendors to provide state-of-the-art systems to drone OEMs to survive and succeed in an intensely competitive market environment. The majority of the defense OEMs integrate advanced sensors and other supporting subsystems aboard their UAV offerings to minimize R&D costs pertaining to the cross-integration of communication platforms. Hence, vendors mainly compete based on their in-house manufacturing capabilities, global footprint network, product offerings, R&D investments, and a strong client base. An increase in the drone procurement rate due to the expanded portfolio of applications is expected to fuel the market growth during the forecast period, thereby making it an ideal time to launch new products. The competitive environment in the market is likely to intensify further due to an increase in product/service extensions and technological innovations.

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