The U.S. unmanned aerial systems (UAS) market has had considerable momentum due to recent operational successes and increasing mission roles. In addition, UAS market penetration in all four military services and the commercial sectors in surveillance and weaponized capabilities are driving growth.
“On the operational side, UA systems have received praise and support across several services and ranks,” remarks Senior Industry Analyst Kathy Ellwood. “Testimonies have been documented from many levels regarding the benefits of UA systems in theaters. In fact, those accolades are usually followed by the desire for the delivery of more systems.“
Frost & Sullivan's Aerospace & Defense Group finds that the U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems Market earned revenues of $2.14 billion in 2005 and estimates to reach $17 billion in 2011.
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In the military sectors, UA systems have been able to enter regions of the battlespace that would otherwise have endangered a warfighter. These systems gather intelligence data at rates much faster and more detailed than previous means. Additionally, UA systems have been able to loiter over positions for longer periods of time than that of manned assets. They have provided a variety of operational support from ISR functions to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) detection. Enhanced sensor payloads and weapons systems have demonstrated that and additional capabilities can be run through these vehicles.
Although it is unlikely that cost will affect procurement in the near-term, advancements in payload technologies is expected to increase costs. However, due to current operational requirements, cost will have little impact on procurement across the services. Cost will have more of an effect on those federal, state and local agencies with smaller budgets, but still desire to procure UA systems for surveillance needs.
The U.S. unmanned aerial systems market is dominated by two manufacturers with many smaller firms providing tactical and small UAVs. Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. continue to provide the bulk of the UAS market space with the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Global Hawk and the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Predator family. With the reduced production time needed for smaller UAVs, the ability to field these systems faster brings increased capabilities to both the warfighters and domestic agencies. With the smaller, more tactical systems, the market becomes less about increasing capabilities per vehicle as it does about fielding as many platforms as possible.
Cost overruns are certainly not a unique element in defense markets. Nevertheless, the red flags associated with that are certainly not favorable. The flexibility and speed to which the additional sensor packages, radar systems and weapons can be integrated is leaving the UAS market vulnerable. All those additions driven mainly by the end-users tend to drive up the costs.
In addition to staying within budget, the industry must strive to achieve the best quality service and support to the end-user. These two items are especially important considering the competitive landscape in this industry, as it is becoming increasingly saturated while operational requirements may reduce the need for these capabilities in five to ten years.
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• North American Airborne Command and Control Markets, F464-16
• North American Naval C4ISR Market, F587-16
• North American Airborne ISR Market
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