Microwave Journal

UAVs have proved to be remarkably useful during peacekeeping missions and the on-going global war on terror

Aerospace & Defense

August 1, 2013

According to ASDReports, with surveillance taking an increasingly important role both on and off the battlefield, our report – The Global UAV Market 2013-2023 – forecasts robust spending in the global UAV market to 2023, with the market expanding from US$7.3 billion in 2013 to US$14.0 billion by 2023 – a CAGR of 6.75%. This substantial growth is fuelled by the growing need for persistent surveillance of large areas, providing enhanced situational awareness and responsiveness to military forces. 

North America Dominates Market

The US is the largest defense spender in the world – a position that is well reflected in its domination of the UAV market. Strategic Defence Intelligence’s research indicates that it will spend US$52.1 billion on UAVs between 2013 and 2023. 

Whilst Europe has borne the brunt of the global economic crisis - which has had severely detrimental consequences for military spending - the region is still expected to increase its UAV spending over the next decade, though will be overtaken by the ever more powerful Asia Pacific region, which is expected to hold the second largest share of the UAV market by 2023. 

Demand Driven by Security Threats

UAVs have proved to be exceedingly useful not only during peacekeeping missions, but also  in the ongoing global war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, finding applications across ISR and combat roles. Furthermore, enhanced capabilities in areas such as endurance, data processing, and communications have broadened ISR UAV use in both defense and intelligence roles.

Security threats posed by cross-border insurgents, illegal immigrants, pirates, hostile nations and terrorist organizations have created a need for defense systems capable of carrying out surveillance and intelligence gathering missions. UAVs provide enhanced coverage along remote sections of a country’s border, and UAVs equipped with electro-optical (EO) sensors can identify images from an altitude of 60,000 feet, providing real-time imagery to a ground control operator. This enables fast and informed decisions to be made regarding deployment of border patrol agents.

UAVs also have a wider range than border security forces on patrol or stationary surveillance equipment, and have a higher probability of tracking illegal immigrants seeking to enter a country through dense woods or mountainous terrain. Moreover, compared to a manned defense system such as a helicopter, UAVs have a longer flight time: the Predator B UAV can fly for 30 hours without refueling, whilst a helicopter’s average fuel time is an estimated two hours. Owing to all these factors, countries across the globe are investing in the procurement - as well as research and development - of UAVs. 

Demand Driven by Border Dispites

Territorial disputes among countries lead to a competitive acquisition of defense systems within a region. Such contemporary disputes involve India and Pakistan, South Korea and North Korea, Thailand and Cambodia, and China and Taiwan; all are driving the global UAV market. 

Moreover, China’s increasing dominance in the South China Sea, coupled with an unstable regional environment, has more broadly increased demand for UAVs in the Asia-Pacific region. China plans to launch UAVs in 11 provinces to survey and patrol the nation’s coastal borders. It is also pursuing an aggressive development and production plan for UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles) such as the Lijian and CH3. 

China has laid claims to the entire South China Sea – a move that has precipitated territorial disputes with a number of countries, including Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. This has led to Japanese authorities borrowing Global Hawk UAVs from the US to monitor its coasts, and they have now expressed interest to purchase about three of them by 2015.

This report is the result of an extensive research covering the defense industry.