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Militaries ramping up use of unmanned ground, sea and air vehicles

20 February 2017 Jane's Editorial Staff

Above image - Hermes 900 UAV. Source: Elbit Systems

Over 63,000 new UAVs and over 30,000 new UGVs will be operational over next 10 years, Jane's investigates.

Militaries are becoming increasingly reliant on unmanned ground, sea and aerial vehicles to carry out dull, dirty and dangerous missions. Unmanned military ground, sea and air vehicle technology is evolving rapidly and Jane's analysts are seeing strong growth across all three sectors over the next five to ten years.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Over the next 10 years, UAV sales will exceed $82 billion globally, with growing global tension and the foreseen increasing role of UAVs in operations keeping demand high.

Jane's forecasts sales of 63,000 new UAVs in the next decade, with increased focus on cost-effective and flexible systems, as well as smaller and more efficient sensors and communication systems. Additionally, Jane's analysts are seeing increases in mission endurance times. The Zephyr 8/S is a pseudo-satellite UAV that can operate autonomously for months due to electric power from its battery and solar panels.

Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)

UGVs demonstrated their capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and were important in combating the threat of IEDs. However, many UGVs were delivered a decade or more ago and have been superseded by new technology, such as enhanced sensors and systems. As a result many will need updating within the next five to 10 years.

Between 2016 and 2025, Jane's forecasts a delivery potential of 30,000 unmanned ground vehicles mostly to replace old inventory. The forecast for the sector projects a growth from around $200 million in sales in 2016, to approximately $800 million by 2025. In the 2016 to 2025 timeframe, approximately $4.9 billion will be spent on unmanned ground vehicles globally.

Growing applications for new generation systems, such as bomb squads and emergency service sectors, will also keep demand growing in the five- to 10-year outlook.

Unmanned Sea Vehicles (USV)

Unmanned sea vehicles have been used for decades for mine hunting and disposal, but are still at a relatively early stage of development. USVs are being used in a variety of ways including anti-submarine warfare, counter terrorism, anti-smuggling, harbour surveillance, and an increasing use in littoral waters.

Jane's analysts forecast that unmanned sea vehicles sales will grow from just over $400 million in 2016 to over $900 million by 2025, with total USV sales between 2016 and 2025 to hit $6.5 billion. Many suppliers are offering products across military and civil markets with more modular system designs to integrate surface and underwater system solutions.

Systems Interoperability

Integration is at the heart of future missions and tomorrow's world will involve complex teaming of manned, unmanned, and optionally manned assets with much higher system autonomy.

Jane's analysts believe that unmanned systems provide operational differentiation, and those forces that do not invest in this capability will be at a significant disadvantage. With technology advancing at such a pace, a myriad of applications will unfold limited only by the imagination of the designer.

Jane's editorial staff
Posted 21 February 2017


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