Best Umanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are remotely piloted aerial vehicles that play a significant role in the defense as well as commercial sectors. UAVs are commonly termed as drones and are mostly known for their wide usage in various military missions such as border surveillance. They are also used for mapping, surveying, and determining weather conditions of a specific area. The market is driven by an increase in the use of UAVs in Civil & Commercial applications, growing use of UAVs in various military applications, increasing use of UAVs in life-threatening military missions, increasing use of modern warfare techniques by defense forces, increasing use of UAVs as loitering munition , increasing use of UAVs in advanced patrolling of marine borders, exemptions made by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to permit the use of UAVs in several industries  and growing use of UAVs to counter terrorism.


Top 10 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  1. DJI
  2. Parrot Drones SAS
  3. Microdrones
  4. FLIR System Inc
  5. Lockheed Martin Corporation
  6. Yuneec
  7. Northrop Grumman Corporation
  8. Airbus S.A.S.
  9. Boeing
  10. Elbit Systems Ltd.

Competitive Scenario

The UAV market is a highly competitive and fragmented one with a large number of public and private sector players operating in it. The increasing use of different types of UAVs in the military and commercial sectors has fueled the growth of the UAV market across the globe. Multiple strategies have been adopted by key players operating in this market to enhance their product offerings.

In addition, a benchmarking of the strategies adopted by the key players in the UAV market has also been performed. The benchmarking process involves analysis of the key developments such as new product launches, contracts, and agreements carried out by the leading players of the UAV market.

COMPETITIVE LEADERSHIP MAPPING TERMINOLOGY

This section provides information about the major players that offer UAVs/Drones, and outlines the findings and analysis on how well each vendor performs within the specified criteria. We have placed vendors into 4 categories based on their performance in each criterion: Visionary Leaders, Innovators, Emerging Companies, and Dynamic Differentiators.

VISIONARY LEADERS

Visionary leaders are the leading market players in terms of new developments such as product launches, innovative technologies, and the adoption of growth strategies. These players have a broad product offering that caters to most of the regions globally under the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles category. Visionary leaders primarily focus on acquiring the leading market position through their strong financial capabilities and their well-established brand equity. Visionary Leaders in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market are: Parrot Drones SAS, DJI, Microdrones, Flir Systems Inc, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Yuneec, Northrop Gumman Corporation, Airbus S.A.S., Boeing, Israel Aerospace Industries, General Atomics, Aerovironment, Elbit Systems Ltd, Kespry Inc, Raytheon.

DYNAMIC DIFFERENTIATORS

Dynamic Differentiators are established players with very strong business strategies. However, they have a weaker product portfolio compared to the visionary leaders. They generally focus only on a specific type of technology related to the product under the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles category. Dynamic Differentiators in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market are: Thales Group, Bae Systems, Ehang, Textron Inc, Turkish Aerospace Industries. 

INNOVATORS

Innovators in the competitive leadership mapping are vendors that have demonstrated substantial product innovations as compared to their competitors. The companies have focused on product portfolios. However, they do not have very strong growth strategies for their overall business, when compared with the visionary leaders. Innovators in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market are: SaaB AB, 3D Robotics Inc, Aeronautics Ltd, PrecisionHawk. 

EMERGING COMPANIES

Emerging companies have niche product and service offerings. Their business strategies are not as strong as that of the established vendors. The emerging vendors include the new entrants in the market, emerging in terms of product portfolio and geographic reach, and require time to gain significant traction in the market. Emerging Company in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market is the ECA Group.  


What are the major applications of UAVs/Drones?

Thermal Detection
Thermal detection involves the use of thermographic inspection across industries such as agriculture, mining, construction, and oil & gas. Thermal cameras use infrared radiation to detect objects in a dark environment. These cameras are capable of capturing images in the dark and are useful for several military and commercial applications. Flir Systems Inc. offers thermal imaging solutions in unmanned aerial vehicles, which are used for solar farm imaging, pipeline inspections, and for intelligence gathering by military and government & law enforcement agencies. Thermal cameras use heat signatures to create images based on the information gathered by drones. They are also known as night vision cameras, low-light imaging cameras, thermal imaging cameras, and near-infrared illumination cameras. The thermal detection application segment of the drone analytics market is projected to grow from USD 447.7 million in 2017 to USD 1,587.8 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 28.81% from 2017 to 2022.

Geolocation Tagging
Geolocation tagging involves the tagging of photographs and videos with the geographic data gathered from drones. Industries such as mining & quarrying, oil & gas, and construction use geolocation tagging to combine geographical metadata with images or videos captured by drones. In January 2017, Agribotix (US) and SenseFly (Switzerland) entered into a partnership to provide end-to-end drone and geolocation tagging to professional users in the agriculture industry. The geolocation tagging segment of the drone analytics market is projected to grow from USD 73.7 million in 2017 to USD 246.9 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 27.34% during the forecast period.

Aerial Monitoring
Aerial monitoring involves monitoring and inspection in the agriculture & forestry, insurance, utility, telecommunication, oil & gas, transportation, and scientific research sectors. It is also used in construction sites to track the progress of work. It involves machine learning, wherein the software installed at the end-user level automatically detects patterns in images captured by drones. Airware (US) provides aerial data monitoring solutions for the mining & quarrying and construction industries. The aerial monitoring application segment of the drone analytics market is projected to grow from USD 186.6 million in 2017 to USD 644.3 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 28.13% during the forecast period.

Ground Exploration
Ground exploration involves the collection of data from construction and mining sites. It is also used in scientific research, agriculture, and forestry for site surveying. DroneDeploy (US) offers solutions that are used for ground exploration. The ground exploration segment of the drone analytics market is projected to grow from USD 41.6 million in 2017 to USD 136.1 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 26.78% during the forecast period.

3D Modelling
The use of drones for 3D modeling has not only helped organizations visualize and construct visual prototypes of their products but also enables them to have a highly graphical representation of activities such as navigation. 3D mapping and 3D modeling are currently being used widely across various industries, such as construction, agriculture, and insurance, among others. Due to the increasing demand for 3D maps and models, companies offering drone analytics solutions are making efforts to provide customized solutions to meet the specific requirements of different industries. DroneDeploy (US), and ESRI (US) are some of the major players offering 3D modeling solutions. The 3D modeling segment of the drone analytics market is projected to grow from USD 334.7 million in 2017 to USD 1,295.6 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 31.08% during the forecast period.

How are the UAVs generally categorized into different classes?

Small UAVs

Small UAVs comprise nano, micro, and mini UAVs that fly at a low altitude of less than 350 meters. The production of small UAVs accounts for a share of approximately 17.0% of the total UAVs produced across the globe. The small UAVs segment of the UAV market is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period due to increased demand for these UAVs from the defense sector for surveillance and reconnaissance applications.

Small UAVs are further classified into:

  1. Nano UAVs - Nano UAVs have a range of 1 kilometer and can fly at an altitude of 100 meters. These UAVs weigh 0.025 kilograms. 
  2. Micro UAVs - Micro UAVs have a range of 1 kilometer and can fly at an altitude of 250 meters. These UAVs weigh between 0.025 kilograms and 5 kilograms. 
  3. Mini UAVs - Mini UAVs have a range of 1 kilometer to 2 kilometers and fly at an altitude of 150 meters. These UAVs weigh between 5 kilograms and 150 kilograms. 

Strategic and Tactical UAVs
Strategic UAVs comprise High-altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) and Medium-altitude Long-endurance (MALE) UAVs. At high altitudes, UAVs tend to be heavy and hence, require high endurance and increased range. This is mainly since large platforms carry large payloads and require more energy to fly for a long duration of time. MALE UAVs carry up to 1,500 kilograms and have a maximum flight altitude of 14,000 meters. HALE UAVs weigh 12,000 kilograms and can fly at a maximum altitude of 20,000 meters.

Tactical UAVs fly at altitudes ranging between 3,000 meters and 8,000 meters. These UAVs are primarily used in military applications. Tactical UAVs fill the gap that exists between small UAVs and strategic UAVs by combining the flexibility of small platforms with high-end platforms. Close-range (CR), Short-range (SR), and Medium-range (MR) UAVs can operate over a limited distance, owing to their lack of satellite communication systems.

These are further classified into:

  1. Close Range UAVs - Close-range tactical UAVs have a range of between 10 kilometers and 30 kilometers and can fly at an altitude of 3,000 meters. These UAVs weigh 150 kilograms.
  2. Short Range UAVs - Short-range tactical UAVs have a range of 30 kilometers to 70 kilometers and can fly at an altitude of 3,000 meters. These UAVs weigh 20 kilograms.
  3. Medium Range UAVs - Medium-range tactical UAVs have a range of 70 kilometers to 200 kilometers and can fly at an altitude of 5,000 meters. These UAVs weigh between 5 kilograms and 1,250 kilograms.
  4. Medium Range Endurance UAVs - Medium-range endurance tactical UAVs have a range greater than 500 kilometers and can fly at an altitude of 8,000 meters. These UAVs weigh 1,250 kilograms.
  5. Low Altitude Deep Penetration UAVs - Low-altitude deep penetration tactical UAVs have a range greater than 250 kilometers and can fly at an altitude from 50 meters to 9,000 meters. These UAVs weigh 350 kilograms.
  6. Low Altitude Long Endurance - Low-altitude long-endurance tactical UAVs have a range greater than 500 kilometers and can fly at an altitude of 3,000 meters. These UAVs weigh less than 30 kilograms.
  7. Medium Altitude Long Endurance - Medium-altitude long endurance UAVs operate at an altitude of 14,000 meters and weigh around 1,500 kilograms.
  8. High Altitude Long Endurance - High-altitude long-endurance UAVs are long-range unmanned aircraft that operate at an altitude of >60,000 feet and fly above commercial traffic.

Special Purpose UAVs

Special-purpose UAVs include:

  1. Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) - Unmanned combat aerial vehicles are remote-controlled combat drones used to carry armaments such as firearms, explosives, and missiles from one place to another. These UAVs function under real-time human control. Unmanned combat aerial vehicles can fly at an altitude of 10 kilometers with a flying range of 1,500 kilometers.
  2. Loitering UAVs - Loitering UAVs ‘loiter’ around a specific area to locate the target. The UAVs specify and lock the target and then fire at it. Loitering UAVs are also being planned to be used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities in military applications.
  3. Swarm Drones - Swarm drones refer to a combination of more than one drone. These drones operate autonomously or are controlled by a single pilot. Swarm drones are used in military applications.
  4. Lethal UAVs - Lethal UAVs can fly at an altitude of 4 kilometers with a range of up to 300 kilometers. These UAVs have an endurance of 4 hours.
  5. Decoy UAVs - Decoy UAVs can fly at an altitude of 5 kilometers with a fly range of 500 kilometers. The average weight of a decoy UAV can be up to 250 kilograms.
  6. Stratospheric UAVs - Stratospheric UAVs can fly at an altitude of 20 kilometers and have a fly range of 2,000 kilometers. The average weight of a stratospheric UAV can be up to 2,500 kilograms.
  7. Exo-Stratospheric UAVs - Exo-stratospheric UAVs can fly at an altitude of 30,500 kilometers. MarsFlyer and MAC-1 are exo-stratospheric UAVs commonly used by scientific research institutes.


How are the verticals divided in the UAV/Drone Market?

Based on verticals, the UAV market in this study is segmented into military, commercial, government & law enforcement, and consumer.

Military
UAVs are used in military applications to perform various tasks in hostile territories. They are also used during wars and peacetime missions to mitigate the risk to the lives of pilots and enhance the aeronautical capabilities of defense forces. UAVs are widely accepted by the defense sector worldwide, owing to their limited operational costs in comparison to manned aircraft and the benefits offered by them to defense forces. UAVs exhibit extreme endurance and potential during high-altitude flights.

UAVs are utilized in the military sector for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, electronic warfare, strike missions, and battle damage assessment applications. Resupplying, aerial refueling, and air combating are some of the upcoming applications of UAVs in the military sector. Changing warfare techniques require conducting critical missions in populated areas. The availability of advanced navigation and satellite communication technologies has made remote operations of UAVs highly viable. UAVs can reduce collateral damage while hovering, searching, identifying, and striking targets, which makes them an invaluable asset for the military. The military vertical segment of the UAV market has been further classified into intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, combat operations, and battle damage management.

Commercial
The UAV market has not only stirred the interest of defense organizations worldwide but has also led to a large number of investments from various public and private sector organizations to develop new and advanced UAVs. The capability of UAVs to be used in a number of potential applications in the civil & commercial sector has led to developments in the field of UAVs. The civil & commercial application segment of the UAV market is expected to grow significantly in the next ten years.

UAVs are being procured for various civil & commercial applications. For instance, UAVs are utilized in Japan to spray pesticides as well as in a variety of other applications. Wi-Fi connectivity and product delivery related applications of UAVs are also estimated to witness an increase in the near future. Amazon (US) plans to use small UAVs for product delivery. There have been significant R&D investments in the field of UAVs that have widened their applicability in mining, surveying, 3D mapping, and oil & gas exploring activities, among others.

Government and Law Enforcement
UAVs are widely used in homeland security applications such as police investigations & operations, traffic investigations & monitoring, search & rescue operations, and disaster management. The growth of this segment of the market can be attributed to the increased investments being made by several organizations and companies for developing UAVs that are used for crowd control and investigation. In September 2018, the Indian government used drone camera surveillance for crowd control and traffic management during the Men’s Hockey World Cup. ideaForge is one of the leading Indian startups developing drones for crowd control and traffic monitoring applications.

Consumer
Consumer drones are gaining popularity across the globe. They are being used by prosumers and hobbyists. The growth of this segment of the market is due to the increasing popularity and cost-effectiveness of drones.

Use Cases

Search and Rescue Missions

  1. Drone technology is perfect for search and rescue assignments. Drones can easily reach remote parts quicker than people or vehicles. They can rapidly reach areas that vehicles cannot reach, areas that are too wide to be crossed on foot, or too isolated or risky.
  2. Moreover, they can fly over search areas with lights, sensors and cameras, and can recognize heat signs that trace living beings using infrared technology.

Agriculture

Not every agricultural application can be substituted with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, but the time and expense savings will reasonably be substantial in cases where a drone can do the job. Crop spraying and pest management would be one evident drone application for agriculture, but there are more:

  1. Sowing seeds: Planting seeds, along with nutrients to sustain them, is likely to become a common mainstream practice
  2. Soil analysis: Drones can deliver understandings early on in the crop cycle by creating accurate 3-D maps that allow farmers to plan their seed planting patterns, as well as fertilization and irrigation.

Commercial, Industrial & Construction

Drones, mostly quads are discovering their utility in the construction industry in many ways. The main 5 include:

  1. Inspections.
  2. Employees monitoring.
  3. Show customers an aerial look of construction progress.
  4. Surveying.
  5. Security.

Aerial Delivery & Shipping

  1. One of the many groundbreaking drone uses that rapidly caught a lot of media attention is food and product distribution via drones. Big players such as DHL, Amazon, Dominos, and FedEx are testing the feasibility of using drones for local carriage of their items. It could considerably reduce human labor and speed up delivery times.
  2. A major hindrance for drone companies presently is FAA restrictions on the commercial uses of drones. These are not allowed at this time without express agreement by the FAA. They are working on changed guidelines.
  3. Delivery companies and retailers are still going through multiple trials to have this technology possible, but it is only about time before these glitches are fixed out. The foremost concern is dependable delivery and public safety. Several methods are getting used to tackle these matters.

Mining

  1. Drones are observing a lot more application in mining areas across the world. Drones are getting used to deal with works that are unsafe or difficult for workers.
  2. To make mine employees safe, drones are being used to examine for hazardous places such as mine entrances and pit walls particularly if the spot is considered being unsafe and dangerous to mine workers.
  3. Both mapping and modeling are vital to mining organizations. The application of UAV in this segment delivers far more precise models and maps and are much less expensive compared to existing popular methods.

Real Estate Photography

  1.  Amongst the initial uses of personal quadcopters and drones was from real estate agencies as a publicity tool for listing homes.
  2. For years, realtors trusted on pictures to present their home listings. Pictures alone would never give any potential customers an actual sense of what the house felt like or looked like. Photos were one dimensional.
  3. To fix this tricky situation, virtual walkthroughs and even a few videos got famous. Virtual walkthroughs never really worked, though videos started to become an outstanding sales and marketing solution for agents.

What are the major components of a UAV/Drone?

Flight Control systems
Flight control systems use data from a set of sensors such as accelerometers, gyros, and pressure sensors, among others, to determine the flight path of UAVs. Flight control systems help in flying and navigating UAVs with the help of various controls. Flight control systems provide a platform for inexperienced pilots to control UAVs efficiently.

The flight control systems that are being used presently are not sufficient to safely navigate UAVs in crowded spaces. Hence, the development of new systems that can help UAVs in avoiding obstacles is required. Sense & avoid or see & avoid systems are being developed by various UAV manufacturers. These systems have obstacle avoidance capabilities, which, in turn, are expected to lead towards increased adoption of UAVs in various applications.

Sensors
Sensors are an integral part of UAVs as they gather information and provide it to various control systems. This information is used by control systems to navigate UAVs and control their payloads. Advancements in sensor technologies have led to the incorporation of sense & avoid systems in UAVs for efficient navigation by avoiding obstacles. Speed seniors are also known as angular rate sensors or angular velocity sensors. Speed sensors are used for navigation and measurement of the angular velocity of UAVs by taking inputs from altitude indicators, heading indicators, and turn coordinators.

Communication Systems
Communication systems in UAVs ensure a continuous link between UAVs and ground control stations. The basic function of these systems is to receive command and control signals from base stations and transmit data to ground control stations. The type of communication suitable for a particular UAV is based on the cost of the UAV, flight environment, and the nature of the task that a UAV has to perform. Thus, communication systems should be reliable, and there should be no loss of communication, to prevent damage or loss of vehicles.

Data links are the most common communication systems used in UAVs. They enable vital communication between UAVs and ground control stations. They comprise uplinks and downlinks to provide command and control information that is transferred from ground control stations to UAVs using command links, payload data, and status information. However, the transfer of information from UAVs to ground control stations is carried out using relay links. A UAV data link system comprises antennas, diplexers, computers, transmitters, and receivers.

Propulsion Systems
Propulsion systems are power sources of UAVs that allow them to fly. There are a number of power sources, which can be used to power UAVs. These include gasoline, diesel fuel, batteries, fuel cells, and solar energy. The propulsion systems used in UAVs influence their range and altitude.

Batteries
Electrically powered UAVs use batteries to store energy and power their electric motors. As compared to gas-powered UAVs, battery-powered UAVs are easier to operate and produce lesser noise. However, batteries used in UAVs need to be recharged once depleted, which requires a substantial amount of time. Small UAVs are powered using batteries, while large UAVs such as MALE and HALE UAVs are powered using fuel.

UAV Software
The software segment of the UAV platforms market is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period, owing to technological developments in the field of commercial UAVs. However, with the increasing need to minimize R&D expenses, defense forces of different countries are focusing on the development of in-house software instead of procuring them from vendors. In 2014, the testing of control software for maritime UAVs was started by the US Navy. According to the US Naval Air Systems Command, the Common Control System (CCS) software was installed on the MQ-4C Triton control station-based simulator of Northrop Grumman (US) by engineers at NAS Patuxent River. This software is expected to be the baseline for naval UAS, along with the Triton and MQ-8 Fire Scout rotary-wing UAS.

Recent Developments

  1. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is presently observing a high growth rate due to the increasing usage of UAVs for BVLOS operations, need for moving huge quantity of data in real time, and need for protected satellite communication data link for military applications. In the span of three years (2017-2019), the industry has observed numerous product introductions and research and development events from UAV manufacturers and satellite communication service provider.
  2. North America accounts for the maximum part of the market due to the maximum number of UAV companies present in the region as well as high defense budget of the U.S. that flourish the demand for military UAVs in the country. However, Asia-Pacific is anticipated to observe the highest growth during the forecast period, due to the increasing terror activities in the South Asian countries.
  3. Singapore plans to use drones for tasks like parcel delivery, inspecting buildings and providing security. 
  4. Lockheed Martin, one of the leaders in the market, has declared big initiatives with implications for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle air traffic management and battery storage technology. 
  5. India and the U.S. have recognized small air launch unmanned aerial vehicles(UAV) and a lightweight small arms technology project along with aircraft maintenance for defense association

What are the major trends affecting the UAV/Drone Market?

Artificial Intelligence in UAVs
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to enable UAVs to perform all tasks, right from their launch and navigation to data acquisition, data transmission, and data analysis. The incorporation of artificial intelligence in UAVs will also reduce the level of skill required by UAV pilots. UAVs equipped with artificial intelligence can be used in both, commercial as well as military applications. Defense forces across the globe are funding various R&D programs to implement artificial intelligence in UAVs meant for the defense sector, and it is expected to be implemented in the next couple of years.

3D Printing of UAVs
UAVs can be manufactured using 3D printing or additive layer manufacturing (ALM) technology. 3D printing of UAVs allows for the computerized development of their designs, which is expected to cut down the manufacturing time of UAVs. In 2016, Airbus (France) unveiled a 3D-printed 13-feet long UAV called Thor. Companies such as Stratasys (US) and Aurora (US) have also developed jet-powered 3D printed UAVs. These UAVs are made from production-grade thermoplastics with the required flame, smoke, and toxicity (FST) rating. 3D printing of UAVs is expected to accelerate the production of customized UAVs for power plants, communication, and command & control applications, among others.

Endurance in UAVs
The types of power sources used in UAVs include lithium-ion batteries, gasoline, hydrogen fuel, solar cells, and hybrid propulsion systems, among others. Advancements in propulsion systems of UAVs are focused on the development of high-speed vehicles that consume less energy. Most existing UAVs operate within the limits of useful speed. This is expected to push the endurance limits of UAVs. For instance, Next Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) is a solar electric propulsion technology project aimed at developing ion engine technologies for UAVs. It is managed by the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Drone Payloads
UAVs are increasingly being used by defense forces of different countries to carry out surveillance activities. They are also used in many commercial applications such as precision agriculture and infrastructure monitoring, among others. UAVs used by defense forces comprise remotely piloted aircraft equipped with battlefield communication and control equipment that offers real-time images. Various types of payloads, such as sensors and cameras, among others that are mounted on these UAVs have also undergone technological changes to enhance their capabilities. Designers of these payloads face challenges in terms of size, weight, and power (SWaP) restrictions. These SWaP restrictions make it essential for UAV developers to select payloads that have high operational capabilities and low costs. The use of drones/UAVs, specifically in commercial applications, is highly dependent on the reduced costs of drones/UAVs and the SWaP of payloads to deliver quality performance.

Wireless Charging
UAVs used in civil and commercial applications such as product delivery, inspection, monitoring, and scientific research, among others, require charging stations to recharge their batteries. This requires the installation of wireless charging pads in their landing or docking spots. Wireless charging can prove to be beneficial for many commercial industries as it results in extended flight capability of civil and commercial UAVs. Skysense (US) currently offers wireless charging solutions for UAVs.


UAV Market Outlook

  1. Military Segment is likely to lead the UAV Market by 2024 - UAVs have been thought to be the main source of gathering intelligence through reconnaissance, as well as surveillance. Due to the competences possessed by the UAVs to lessen the risk of damage of human life, UAVs have achieved substantial traction amongst numerous governments around the world since the last decade. 
  2. APAC is anticipated to observe the most rapid development in the UAV Market by 2025 - APAC is projected to record the uppermost CAGR, by 2025, owing to the rising acceptance of UAVs in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the growing technological expansions of drones in the region and variations in regulations. The procurement of UAVs in the region is progressively growing, thereby driving the growth of the UAV market in Asia-Pacific.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Market perform in the future?
    The UAV market is projected at USD 19.3 billion in 2019 and is likely to reach USD 45.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 15.5% from 2019 to 2025. The rise in the procurement of military UAVs by defense forces worldwide is one of the most significant factors projected to drive the growth of the UAV market.
  • What are the major applications of UAV?
    UAVs are being extensively used in various civil and commercial applications like photography, product delivery, and greenhouse emission monitoring and wildlife preservation. They are also being used in the agriculture, real estate, mining and oil and gas industries. UAVs are also being increasingly used by defense forces in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance activities, combat operations, and battle damage management.
  • What are the future UAV technologies?
    With the incorporation of new technologies such as AI, sense and avoid systems, and cloud computing in UAVs, the demand for UAVs is expected to further increase. The incorporation of AI in UAVs is expected enhance their capabilities and enable them to carry out a number of activities such as take-off, navigation, data capture, data transmission etc. Powering drones will become more efficient with the incorporation of hydrogen.
  • What are the regulations that impact the global UAV market?
    In the USA, Commercial pilots are expected to follow the specifications of the FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule (Part 107), which contains passing the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test to gain a Remote Pilot Certificate. Hobbyists are expected to follow the FAA’s recreational model aircraft rules. One of the rules is that if the drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250g), then the users need to pay $5 to get it registered. In Europe, the European Union (EU) does not control the civilian use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) with a mass of 150 kg or less. These aircrafts are overseen by national rules accepted by the EU Member States. RPAs above the threshold of 150 kg fall within the directive of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In the UK, the limitations are still pretty upfront. Drones are included under English laws, including aviation laws, which are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). UAVs that weigh 20 kg or less are covered by articles 166 and 167 of the Air Navigation Order. Drones with cameras must not be flown within 150 meters of a jammed area in UK, or within 50 meters of a person, vessel, vehicle, or any other construction that is not under the pilot’s control. Any person using a drone for commercial purposes must attain a license from the CAA. In Australia, small commercial drone operators do not have to pay the current $1,400 in regulatory fees. All the landholders could fly drones of up to 25 kg on their properties without the any approvals.
  • What is the competitive landscape in the market?
    The unmanned aerial vehicle ecosystem comprises of vendors, such as DJI, Parrot Drones SAS, Flir Systems Inc, Microdrones, Lockheed Martin Corpoation, Yuneec, Airbus S.A.S., Northrop Grumman Corporation, Boeing, Elbit Systems Ltd etc. It is a highly competitive and fragmented market with large number of public and private sector players operating in it. The increasing use of different types of UAVs in the military and commercial secotrs has fueled the growth of the market across the globe. Multiple strategies have been adopted by the key players operating in the market.

Best Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Comparing 63 vendors in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles across 97 criteria.
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DJI is a top manufacturer of commercial drones round the globe and it is a subsidiary of iFlight Technology Company Limited. The company produces a variety of cameras, drones, flight controllers, drone accessories, propulsion systems, and camera gimbals (aerial and handheld). The company’s products have multiple applications in the agriculture, energy, public safety, and entertainment, infrastructure, and construction sectors. The company offers its products through DJI online stores, DJI operated stores, and retail stores.

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Parrot is one of the major players in the commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle market that designs, develops, and markets unmanned technology products for hobbyists and professionals across the globe. Its UAV offerings include drones, accessories, and support services. The company offers products for applications such as surveying and mapping, mining and quarrying, engineering and construction, agriculture, environment, and humanitarian applications. Parrot Sequoia+ is the first multispectral camera that offers complete and actual reflectance measurement for a more consistent evaluation of collected data for improving the experience of the user and removing needs for a reflectance target. Parrot Sequoia+ captures all the information from both the light invisible & visible and provides effective data to monitor. The camera also captures RDB images, which can be processed later in photogrammetry software to create high solution maps with several rich data.

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Microdrone is one of the leading producers of unmanned aerial vehicles and integrated systems. The company’s integrated systems include sensors, software, and payloads. It is also one of the principal manufacturers of quadcopter drones for professional applications in Germany. The company’s products have the ability to function in industrial verticals such as mapping, surveying, inspection, mining, construction, agriculture, public safety, science, and academic research, among others. The company has in-house research & development facilities and also offers sales and service for professional drones.

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Flir Systems Inc. designs and sells technology used for thermal imaging, visible light imaging, video analytics, and advanced threat detection. The company operates through 3 business segments: industrial business unit, government & business unit, and commercial business unit. The company offers different payloads and UAV platforms for the UAV market. Flir Systems Inc. has product offerings for the government & defense, industrial, and commercial markets. The company has UAV payloads for firefighting, traffic monitoring, and law enforcement applications. Firefly camera  tool provides in-depth learning for system designers in structured decisions enabling the users to bring up high-quality products and improve productivity. A neural network with Neurotechnology is well utilized by the FLIR Firefly DL facilitating with optimum cost-effectiveness and taking complex decisions for on cameras, with no host PCs. 

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Lockheed Martin is a global defense company offers products and services such as advanced military aircraft (including combat and air mobility aircraft), unmanned air vehicles, and related technologies. The company’s  Aeronautics segment is engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services for unmanned aerial vehicles and caters to the aerospace & defense industry. The company’s Advanced Development Program (ADP) Organization, also known as Skunk Works, works on next-generation unmanned aerial systems that feature capabilities like advanced strike, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, situational awareness, and air mobility. The company’s AI enabled autonomous unmanned systems offer widened capabilities in terms of operation and maintenance for its defense customers. The company offers UAVs in categories such as Mini UAV, Micro UAV, HALE, Medium Range UAV, and Combat UAV, among others.

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Yuneec manufactures drones, manned electric aircraft, radio-controlled drones, multicopper, radio-controlled helicopters & micro copters, and radio-controlled electric powered airplanes. The company’s drones are used for fire rescue, coast guard, law enforcement, and other commercial applications. The company also provides general parts & accessories as well as repair and support services. The company is one of the major players in the “Ready to Fly” drone sector.

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Northrop Grumman’s majorly offers HALE Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, medium range UAVs, short range UAVs, and combat UAVs. It also provides a range of products and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace, and technical services to its global customers. The company’s unique offerings for the UAV market also include a high-altitude long-endurance system known as the Global Hawk system which is used for real-time high-resolution imagery of land masses for threat awareness; the Tritron system which offers ISR functionality over oceans and coastal regions; BAT which is an affordable, medium altitude, multi-mission unmanned aircraft system, among others.

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Airbus is one of the global leaders in aerospace, space, and related services. The company has been serving customers in the aerospace & defense industry for over 40 years. It operates in 170 locations across the globe through three divisions, namely, Airbus, Defense and Space, and Helicopters. The Airbus Defense and Space segments offers unmanned aircraft systems for defense and commercial applications. The company’s UAV offerings include MALE UAV, mini UAV, and stratosphere UAV. The company is a leader in developing stratosphere UAV.

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Boeing is one of the important manufacturers of commercial jetliners and defense, space, and security systems. Its products and services include commercial and military aircraft, satellites, weapons, electronic & defense systems, unmanned systems, launch systems, advanced information & communication systems, and performance-based logistics and training. The company offers its UAV products through its defense, security, and space business segment. Boeing produces unmanned aerial systems for both commercial as well as defense sectors through its fully owned subsidiary. The company also caters to applications such as military, border patrol, wildfire protection, oil and gas, construction, utilities, and agriculture.

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Elbit Systems is an international defense electronics company engaged in a wide range of defense-related programs. It designs, develops, and manufactures unmanned vehicles for defense and homeland security applications as well as aero structures for the commercial aviation market. It mainly offers a broad portfolio of airborne, land, and naval systems and products for defense, homeland security, and commercial aviation applications. Elbit’s airborne systems segment manufactures military aircraft and helicopter systems, commercial aviation systems and aero structures, and unmanned aircraft and unmanned surface vessels. The company also provides UAS training systems that feature capabilities to simulate payload performance, malfunctions, and ground control station operations. It also provides support services, lease services, and training services related to unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the largest government-owned defense and aerospace company in Israel. It is a global leader in the production and development of civil aircraft, fighter aircraft, drones, avionics, missile, and space-based systems for the defense, homeland, and commercial markets. The company offers unmanned aerial systems for air, land, and naval forces with capabilities like intelligence gathering, target missions, border surveying, and maritime patrol, among others. Along with unmanned aerial systems, the company also offers ground control stations, payloads, and training services to its customers across the globe. The company has strong product offerings of tactical and strategic UAVs and is one of the leading manufacturers of VTOL UAVs in the Middle East.

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Saab is involved in the production and sales of products, services, and solutions to the defense, commercial aviation, and civil security sectors. Saab’s aeronautics business segment offers products for the UAV market. The company’s UAV offerings include unmanned fixed-wing and rotary-wing vehicles for defense applications. This segment of the company has formed a joint venture with UMS Aero Group AG (Switzerland) and has developed remotely piloted aerial systems. The company’s unmanned aerial systems are used for a wide range of defense applications such as reconnaissance, identification, target acquisition, and electronic warfare. The company also provides support and training services for unmanned aerial systems. Its support & services segment provides integrated support solutions, technical maintenance & logistics, spare parts, field facilities, and regional operational support to its customers in the defense sector.

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General Atomics is a subsidiary of General Dynamics and it offers a varied range of products, which include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) platforms, sensor systems, and ground control stations. It is one of the leading players in the tactical and strategic UAVs market. General Atomics’ Predator and Sky Guardian drones are the company’s prime revenue pockets. It also integrates other sensors and communication equipment for manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. The company has been working on developing various advanced technologies for solid-state lasers, electro-optical sensors, and ultra-wideband data links for government applications.

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AeroVironment designs, develops, and manufactures unmanned aircraft systems and electric transportation solutions. The company operates through 2 business segments, namely, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Efficient Energy Systems (EES). The unmanned aircraft systems segment offers innovative UAS and tactical missile systems as well as training & support services. The company provides small UAVs, namely, the Raven, Wasp AE, Puma, and Shrike for ISR and communication applications to carry out tactical reconnaissance, tracking, and combat assessment and obtain geographic data. The company’s tactical unmanned aircraft systems are equipped with advanced payloads of electro-optical or infrared sensors that assist troops with real-time tactical reconnaissance, tracking, combat assessment, and geographic data gathering. The company also offers commercial information solutions for precision agriculture applications, which include crop scouting through aerial drones.

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Aeronautics is one of the prime manufacturers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Israel. The company offers its products & services to defense, homeland security, and civil applications. The company has an in-house research & development department that works on proprietary flight control software, innovative navigation, communications, and security interfaces, among others, for unmanned aerial systems. It also offers training and support services to its customers. Its UAV products have combat experience in the conflict zones of Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chad, among others. The company’s Orbiter family is considered among the top products in the small UAVs market.

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Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) designs, develops, modernizes, manufactures, and integrates life cycle support of integrated aerospace systems, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing air platforms, UAVs, and satellites. The company develops tactical surveillance drones, short-range tactical ISTAR drone, high-speed target drone, MALE UAV, and UCAV, among others. The company has a UAV manufacturing facility in Ankara, Turkey. This is a technologically advanced facility that provides manufacturing, assembly, and testing of products.

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Kespry’s drone-based aerial intelligence platform delivers precise information and analytics. The platform has been purpose-built for industrial use, yet simple enough for any user. Their fully-integrated, end-to-end, cloud-enabled platform is also used across aggregates, construction, insurance, mining, and roofing companies across North America, Europe and Australia. The company allows processing industries such as Oil and Gas, Chemical, Pulp and Paper, Power and others with the most precise and easy to use drone-based solution for daily and frequently arranged site checkups. The company also offers a comprehensive solution for construction and engineering companies to better manage proposed and active earthwork operations.

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Textron is one of the leading manufacturers of unmanned systems and operates through 4 major business segments, namely, Textron aviation, industrial, bell, and Textron systems. Unmanned systems are manufactured under the Textron systems segment of the company.

Textron is a multi-industry company with a global network of aircraft, defense, industrial, and financial businesses to provide innovative products and solutions to customers across the globe. The company also provides maintenance and business development services across the globe to support its products. The company’s products are capable of intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance, and border security missions. The company’s Shadow v2 is in service with the US Department of Defense, Australia, Sweden, and Italy.

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3D Robotics designs and manufactures commercial and recreational UAVs. It has an engineering facility in San Diego, California, and a manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico. The company carries out its business through a chain of retailers across the world. 3D Robotics provides both, hardware as well as software in the commercial UAV market. The company offers its products for various applications, such as agriculture, photography, construction, search & rescue operations, and ecological study, among others. Solo drones offered by 3D Robotics with the Site Scan feature help farmers and agronomists make informed business decisions and precisely target action in the field, resulting in improved returns. The company’s products cater to industries like construction, mining, surveying & inspection, and government organizations.

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Thales is a global leader in advanced air defense, C4I systems, and defense electronics. Thales designs technological solutions and delivers services through 3 segments, namely, aerospace, defense and security, and transport. The defense and security segment offer secure communication and information systems, land and air systems, defense mission systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles, among others, for the defense market. It offers unmanned aerial systems such as combat UAVs, tactical UAVs, and mini UAVs, among others. Thales is also involved in FCAS (Future Combat Air System), which is a bilateral cooperation between the UK and France to develop unmanned combat aerial systems. Thales is one of the key players in the European market to supply unmanned aerial systems for countries in the region.

 

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Raytheon is a subsidiary of United Technologies and it primarily operates through five segments, namely, Integrated Defense Systems (IDS); Intelligence, Information and Services; Missile Systems; Space and Airborne systems. The space and airborne systems segment designs and develops integrated sensor and communication systems for advanced missions, including traditional and non-traditional ISR, precision engagement, unmanned aerial operations, and space. Raytheon is one of the leaders in expandable remote sensing and unmanned aerial system engineering. It offers products for the commercial as well as military sectors. The company’s products serve a variety of applications such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; hurricane hunting; real-time intelligence; security; and research, among others.

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PrecisionHawk manufactures drones, software, and drone safety solutions for applications in the agriculture, utilities, oil & gas, insurance, construction, and government sectors. The company provides complete advance drone technology platforms that feature flight mapping, tracking, and analysis. PrecisionHawk’s Unmanned Aerial Intelligence Technology Center of Excellence (UAS COE) was set up to help obtain aerial intelligence for governmental agencies such as the US Department of Defense, North Carolina State Department of Transportation (US), among others.

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BAE Systems operates through five business segments, namely, Air, Electronics Systems, Platform & Services (US), Maritime, and Cyber & Intelligence. The company offers unmanned aerial systems under the air segment. By leveraging its proprietary advanced technology demonstration programmes such as Mantis and Taranis, the company is a leader in the advancement and application of autonomous system design for unmanned aircraft. The company is also a leader in using intelligent autonomy in their Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with the help of which it has built a variety of smart systems that will transform the subtleties of future UAS operations.

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The ECA Group is a subsidiary of Groupe Gorge and it develops products for both, the defense and civil applications. It offers its products in the areas of energy, defense, simulation, shipping, aeronautics, and industrial equipment. The company operates through business segments such as aerospace, robotics, and simulation solutions. The robotics division designs and manufactures autonomous and remote-controlled surfaces, aerial, and underwater vehicles. The company’s mini unmanned aerial vehicles are used in the aerospace, defense & security, energy, and industrial sectors. These mini UAVs application areas include civil protection, image intelligence, inspection, surveillance, and surveying, among others.

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EHang is one of the leaders in the autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform. It provides AAV products and commercial solutions, which include passenger transportation, logistics, smart city management, and aerial media solutions. The company is partners with various governments and industrial players to develop unmanned ecosystems that would feature drone deliveries and command centers. The company’s Ghostdrone and Falcon series drones are used for commercial and security applications. The company’s drones are used for numerous applications such as public security, environment monitoring, fire emergency rescue, inspection, surveying, and mapping, among others.

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Action Drone offers UAS solutions and business expansion plans, with their modular industrial drones. The company operates collaboratively with real-time industrial specialists, who comprehend the needs of their industry so that they can assimilate drone technology and processes flawlessly into their specific missions. The company also offers institutional education and training services with custom produced industrial to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).

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AguaDrone has developed the only wireless Sonar Pod that is capable of sending out a wireless signal to the smartphone or tablets that quickly turns the drone into a Fish Finder. It is 100% waterproof and is capable of landing in and taking off from fresh and saltwater. The drone is armed with exclusive change pod accessories that allow users to shuffle from one pod to the next with just a twist of the wrist. The AguaDrone’s current accessory pods include:

  • The Find Pod, a sonar fish finder that delivers sonar images to the handheld devices via Wi-Fi
  • The Fish Pod, that is capable of carrying the lure to the fish remotely via the drone
  • The Film Pod, a waterproof camera that clicks images from the air or under water
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Airobotics has created a platform that is completely automated, industrial grade, on-demand and multi-purpose. The company has created an automatic, on-demand solution for gathering airborne data in mining amenities without the logistics involved in drone operations. With precise clarity of the difficulties faced by seaports in trying to manage ground and sea traffic, and other operational tasks, the Airobotics solution links seaport operators straight with brief and actionable aerial data. Airobotics' automated platform also offers accurate aerial data for all the inspection and maintenance requirements for oil and gas facilities. Moreover, Airobotics' end-to-end solution delivers industrial facilities with limitless aerial data, providing various understandings to support operations throughout the site. 

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Alti Ascend UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) offers up to five times the endurance of competing systems. Alti Ascend expands the fleet of best in class endurance vertical take-off and landing, fixed, wing unmanned aircrafts. Alti Ascend flies for up to 6 hours and in a standard operating link range of up to 10 km. There are 3 Alti Ascent- Alti Ascend A is for agriculture & farming, Alti Ascend M is for mapping & photogrammetry, Alti Ascend S is for security & surveillance.

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Ascending Technologies has been acqiured by Intel. Intel Falcon 8+ UAV offered by Ascending technologies is a professional drone with V-Shaped design. This drone enhances commercial-grade drone vision with real-time air compensation and provides advanced performance standards and best safety for close mapping and inspection. Falcon 8+ drone is configured as a closed system with isolated onboard data storage that does not transmit data over the internet.
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