Interoperable tech opportunities growing in U.S. UAS market, analysts say

SAN ANTONIO, Texas. The U.S. military, looking to minimize training requirements, is channeling funding toward platform upgrades and autonomy especially in unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), say analysts at Frost & Sullivan. The U.S. Air Force wants to upgrade its UAS programs by deploying an open architecture, ensuring standards-based modularity to enable plug and play sensors and implementing quick hardware and software upgrades, according to Frost & Sullivan.

According to the Frost & Sullivan report titled, "US Military Unmanned Aircraft Market" revenues that stood at $4.18 billion in 2015 are expected to grow to $6.25 billion in 2021 at a compund annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.9 percent. U.S. Air Force officials have made a case for a new MQ-X to replace the MQ-1/9 fleet but the budget will not allow for a new-start MALE program. Therefore, it is focusing on the less expensive sensors and platforms such as those in the MQ-9 extended range (ER) aircraft, according to Frost & Sullivan analysts.

“Both the Army and U.S. Command (USSOCOM) are seeking more expeditionary UAS that do not require prepared surfaces for launch and recovery,” says Mike Blades, Frost & Sullivan Aerospace & Defense Senior Industry Analyst Michael Blades. “This is likely to result in the acquisition of a vertical takeoff and land () platform and possibly, hybrid platforms that transition to flying like a fixed-wing aircraft.”

Meanwhile, the RQ-4 Global Hawk program will increase its upgrade spending from $32.0 million in 2017 to $155.7 million in 2021, according to Blades. The funding will be targeted at integrating and testing the senior year electro-optical reconnaissance system (SYERS-2), which is the payload flown on U-2 reconnaissance planes.

The military services continue to demand smaller, more autonomous platforms with longer endurance and multi-mission that will decrease the overall manpower expense. This is creating opportunities in technology areas such as automated processing, exploitation and dissemination of data, platform endurance, battery energy densities and link security, according to Frost & Sullivan.

“Defense companies need to sign strategic mergers and acquisitions with companies in overlapping markets to enhance their abilities to manufacture and upgrade platforms,” Blades says. “They can also make the most of the market demand for technologically advanced UAS by developing subsystem hardware and software, automating flight operations and PED, and integrating modular sensors and sensor suites.”

For more on the military market from Blades and other Frost & Sullivan analysts, read "Radar, electronic warfare, UAS payloads are steadiest part of military market."