Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continue to be the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry this decade, according to Teal Group analysts. In fact, spending on UAS is anticipated to more than double over the next decade, growing from current worldwide UAS expenditures of $5.2 billion to $11.6 billion annually and totaling just over $89 billion in the next 10 years.
As the unmanned aircraft market evolves, it is also “becoming an increasingly international market as it grows,” says Philip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at Teal Group. The U.S. and Israel are the market leaders, but many other regions are working to grow their indigenous capabilities and UAS market share. At the same time, U.S. prime contractors are increasingly forging ties with area partners to tap UAS market opportunities in the Middle East.
“The increasing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Middle East, evolving threat in the region, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) budget have pushed U.S. original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to look for UAV opportunities in the Middle East,” affirms Mahendran Arjunraja, senior research analyst of aerospace, defense & security at Frost & Sullivan.
The Boeing Company signed a teaming agreement in Feb. 2013 with Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI), a Tawazun subsidiary, to address the growing demand in the Middle East market for unmanned systems. ADASI will provide training, support, and marketing services, whereas Boeing will expand the availability of its ScanEagle and Integrator UAS in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Northrop Grumman Corp. also supports ADASI in making UAS popular in region, and Rockwell Collins has opened office in Abu Dhabi to identify and cater to future opportunities. Further, at the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Feb. 2013, UAE armed forces ordered an unspecified number of Predator UAS from General Atomics in the U.S. The contract, valued at $196.57 million, is the first of its kind in the region and calls for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)-only variants (not weaponized or armed UAS).