Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have been a regular feature in military applications, especially surveillance, for some time, and the range of defense applications continues to grow as technology develops. The pace of this development continues to increase, driven by geopolitical factors such as the rise of China. The People’s Republic of China has placed the development of drone technology as a central strategic goal in its continuing struggle to assert itself as a regional hegemonic power.
Whilst an increase of investment in unmanned land, surface and subsurface capabilities has embarked in recent years, unmanned aerial vehicles continue to dominate the unmanned market. It is likely that in coming years, integration of multi-domain unmanned platforms will be pursued as drone swarm technology matures. Swarms of autonomous undersea, surface or aerial vehicles flooding enemy-controlled territory and attacking in a coordinated fashion have long been a staple of science fiction. But the evolution of AI, coupled with blockchain technologies, has brought drone swarms closer to reality.
China has already successfully demonstrated swarm capabilities, and has signaled its intention to be a world leader in this area. The viability of such squadrons relies on the ability to let a range of autonomous vehicles, with different attributions and functions, interact without human help. This is not yet possible, but the significant military advantage they would procure makes it inevitable.
The government sector (including the military) is the primary market for drones, followed by the consumer segment. Commercial applications of drones are gradually increasing, and many enterprises are seeking regulatory permits for full-scale deployment of drones in their day-to-day operations. This optimistic outlook for drones is driving intense competition in the market with many companies, both established players and startups, vying for a share in a market that is set to enjoy strong growth over the next five years. Technology giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Facebook are strengthening their focus on drone technologies as they look to cash in on the potential for drones to drive the transformation of traditional industrial operational systems and pave the way for Industry 4.0.
This report looks at key products used in drones.
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