The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is reported to possess more than 7,000 aerial drones, to date. The DOD boasted less than 50 such drones just a decade ago; and, Pentagon officials have asked Congress for nearly $5 billion, to be used for drones in 2012.
Industry analysts are again predicting a strong unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market–and not just for the remainder of 2011 or throughout 2012, but for the next decade. The United States accounts for a majority of the market.
The U.S. is expected to account for 77 percent of worldwide research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) spending on UAV technology over the next decade, according to Teal Group’s “World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, Market Profile and Forecast 2011.” The U.S. also accounts for roughly 69 percent of procurement. Asia-Pacific represents the second largest market, followed very closely by Europe, reveals Steve Zaloga, Teal Group senior analyst and another author of the study. At the same time, Africa and Latin America are expected to be modest markets for UAVs.
The worldwide UAV market continues to be “one of the prime areas of growth for defense and aerospace companies,” says Philip Finnegan, Teal Group’s director of corporate analysis and an author of the study. “Smaller companies can successfully compete against larger players, as AAI Corp., Insitu, General Atomics, and AeroVironment have all shown.”
Prime contractors are also acquiring smaller companies involved in the design and development of unmanned vehicles, systems, and technologies. In the past year, Finnegan points out, L-3 Communications bought Airborne Technologies, a small UAV developer and manufacturer, and VT Group purchased Evergreen’s UAV fee-for-service operations.