The global military drones’ market size is expected decline from $13.55 billion in 2019 to $11.83 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -12.70%. The decline is mainly due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it. The market is then expected to recover and reach $20.16 billion in 2023 at CAGR of 19.45%.
Increasing government funding on military drones to enhance efficiency in military operations boosts the demand for the production of military drones. According to a 2018 report published by the Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone, in 2019, the U.S. Navy funding for unmanned systems increased by $1 billion (38%) and the U.S Army funding increased by $719 million (73%), when compared to 2018. Furthermore, the Department of Defense in the US requested approximately $9.39 billion for drones and associated technologies in the fiscal year 2019, representing a significant expansion of 26% in drone spending over the 2018 budget, which was $7.5 billion. Hence, the increasing government spending on unmanned drones is driving the military drones’ market.
The shortage of trained and skilled military drone pilots equates lesser usage of military drones, thus hindering the military UAV market growth. Military drones are more sophisticated compared to commercial drones and require trained pilots to operate them. Though the current budget supports purchases of military drones, lack of trained professionals could lead to lesser drone utilization. According to an article by The Washington Post published in 2016, the lack of skilled drone pilots caused the US military to cut 8% of its drone combat missions in 2015. The number of active pilots in the US has declined from over 800,000 in 1980 to barely 600,000 in 2017. There is a need for 637,000 drone pilots.
According to military drones’ market trends, drone swarm technology is growing in popularity in the market due to its cost efficiency and high fire-power. Drone swarms are a large group of small drones that coordinate with each other to perform actions such as a survey of enemy territories, search and rescue missions, and attacks on hostile objects. Drone swarm technology involves the production of several small and cheap drones rather than one large expensive drone, therefore offering military drone manufacturers and end-users efficiency in terms of cost and time. With the use of advanced swarm technologies, military and armed forces can effectively carry out lethal drone strikes in multiple places at once. For instance, Microsystems developed a drone swarming system called the WOLF-PAK in 2017, which has the capability to fly small drones in groups and make them split away from the group whenever necessary. In 2019, the U.S Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the U.S Air Force Research Lab invested in a project called Gremlins, involving multiple controlled micro-drones that drop out of cargo planes to swarm enemy defenses.
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