Small is Beautiful: A Shift in the Military and Commercial UAV Markets?
The drone market is undergoing a radical transition towards smaller robot aircraft, mainly under the impulse of new software tools and “surprisingly powerful surveillance sensors,” according to an article that appeared in the National Defense magazine,
The article explains that after having been mostly used for tactical goals in the military field, smaller UAVs are evolving towards increasingly significant and strategic roles both as weapons and surveillance/reconnaissance tools. This is largely due to miniaturized and more advanced sensor and navigation technologies – not to mention smaller price tags.
To wit, AeroVironment’s Blackwing miniature kamikaze missile, which has the potential for broader missions thanks to “electro-optical and infrared sensors, selective availability anti-spoofing module, GPS and a secure digital data link.”
Traditionally, larger drones (e.g. Reaper, Global Hawk, Gray Eagle) represent the bulk of the US’s $14 billion military budget for UAVs. Under the current budgetary conditions, however, smaller and cheaper autonomous systems that offer enhanced “operational agility” and are easier to upgrade are seen as increasing appealing alternatives.
Small UAVs may see their role expand, with one recent study describing drones as “exponential force multipliers.”
This, along with emerging markets such as tethered aircraft, which offer highly relevant defense and commercial applications as “virtual observation towers,” translates into new opportunities for smaller operations.
Although the article provides valuable insights into the defense market, it falls short on the analysis of the commercial market, which is simply described as “increasingly competitive,” therefore offering fertile ground for consolidation.
Luis Robert | Analyst – Arsha Consulting
Arsha Consulting Defence and Security services
Photo Credits: Photo by Robert S. Morgan, U.S. Marine Corps