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Commercial UAS market has $15 billion potential, but can global authorities establish the regulatory frameworks needed?

by Asif Anwar | Jan 11, 2019

The growing market for commercial UAS (unmanned aerial systems) platforms and associated services will be led by demand from the agriculture, commercial security and first responder sectors: The Strategy Analytics Advanced Defense Systems (ADS) service report, “Commercial UAS Market Outlook 2017-2027,” forecasts the commercial UAS market will grow to over $15.1 billion by 2027.

The growth in demand for UAS platforms providing commercial services encompasses agriculture, delivery services, media, first responder, media/entertainment and other industries, with agriculture, commercial security and first responder sectors potentially accounting for close to 49% of demand for commercial UAS platforms by 2027. Globally, the market for commercial UAS platforms and associated services will be driven by the European, Asia-Pacific and North America regions and could together account for over 83% of global demand by 2027.

Commercial UAS Market Outlook 

To achieve mass adoption of commercial UAS platforms across government and enterprises and achieve this $15 billion potential will be almost singularly contingent upon the establishment of favorable regulatory frameworks. Existing regulations that currently underpin the use of UAS platforms will need to evolve and expand, especially as drone usage enables applications that require sharing of civilian airspace as well as the ground infrastructure currently used exclusively by manned aircraft.

The associated demand for mission sensor payloads is predicted to witness faster growth than the UAS market itself as platforms are increasingly equipped with the ability to swap multiple sensors on a plug and play basis.

As capabilities expand, so will the extent to which UAS platforms move towards operation in civilian airspace. Integration of commercial UAS operations into civilian airspace will need to address several technical challenges which will include the man machine interface (MMI), Communications and Control Minimum Operating Performance Standards (C2 MOPS) and Sense-and-avoid (SAA) or detect- and-avoid (DAA) systems.

This will dictate additional demand for dedicated sensors and associated technologies including satellite datalinks to allow beyond line of sight flight, sense and avoid systems underpinned by radar, LiDAR and EO-IR technologies and machine learning/artificial intelligence based processing.

Commercial UAS Market Outlook 2017-2027 presents the outlook for global commercial UAS platforms in terms of overall expenditure, as well as detailing expected shipments and associated demand for the mission sensor payloads. Further segmentation of the market in terms of platform, application and sensor types is also presented. The underlying numerical data is available in the Global Commercial UAS Market and Technology Forecast: 2017 – 2027 data model.

This report also looks at the regulatory environment that will be crucial in enabling the market for commercial UAS platforms and discusses the technologies that will be required to enable integration and operation of these platforms in civilian airspace.

However, the expansion of commercial UAS use brings a disruptive potential, intentional or otherwise, as well their implementation in the asymmetric threat arsenal. Almost every legitimate use has an almost mirror illegal counterpart. Examples include illicit goods trafficking into prisons and across borders, and disruption to commercial air traffic either through collisions with aircraft or interference to other airport operations such as boarding.

Counter-UAS Systems Market 

Being able to detect and counter illegal UAS platforms is a growing concern, but unfortunately, the threats in the civilian sector have up until now been largely seen as hypothetical with the early market for counter-UAS systems has been driven by the military market, and no real budgets being allocated for the civilian sector. Recent events in the UK at the major Gatwick and Heathrow airports have certainly brought the need for counter-drone systems into the public eye, but it remains to be seen whether the disruption caused by the drones at Gatwick and Heathrow will be the catalyst for a regulatory framework to be established and for proper investment in counter-UAS systems for the civilian sector?

Thanks for reading. Check out the complementary webinar, Implications of Expanding the UAS Mission Envelope in Military and Civilian Airspace on this topic to hear more about this topic.

Implications of UAS_Webinar Replay 
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