The rising adoption of UAVs by numerous end user industries and the development of efficient solar powered propulsion system are expected to drive the solar powered drones market.
Technological advancements surfacing in hydrogen fuel cell, photovoltaic cell, and hybrid propulsion system used to generate energy may help in improving the endurance and flight range. This will assist in their penetration in the global market owing to their increased demands in civil and commercial application utilities to function on an autonomous power source.
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Reliable and good quality internet connectivity has become a necessity around the globe, which is restricted only to the urban areas. Initiatives taken by network providers to connect with remote rural regions with best quality internet services and increase in the consumer base are expected to drive market growth. Such unmanned aerial vehicles also find major applications in mapping, disaster management, and surveillance.
Extensive applications for law enforcement activities to assist crime investigation are gaining prominence. It is used for accumulating evidence by capturing quality videos and images from over the crime scene without tampering the existing evidence. Also, it can be used for traffic management, accident inspection, and congestion analysis.
Severe government regulations prohibiting the adoption of these aerial vehicles are anticipated to restrain solar powered drones market size. Severe threats to public security and privacy norms are challenging the growth prospects. As these technologies have only recently established a foothold in the industry, lack of trained professionals and pilots to manage the functions is expected to pose major challenges to the growth.
UAV technologies were restricted for application only in the defense industry until 2013; however, trends in the last two years have witnessed participation of large aviation & tech-companies accompanied with small private industries in the solar powered drones market. Key participants are targeting advanced application enhancements in the machinery, such as HD imaging, communication networks, thermal imaging and exigency service support, for increasing the solar powered drone market share. Upcoming aerial vehicles have encapsulated photovoltaic cells on the wings to reduce the weight while maintaining the aerodynamic features to extend the flight range of UAVs.
On the basis of applications, the global solar powered drones market can be segmented into agriculture, energy, government & defense, telecommunication, and media & entertainment. The government and defense segment contributed a major share till 2015 owing to the major applications for surveying and mapping of regions. Regulatory amendments over the forecast timeframe are anticipated to propel the growth in the commercial sectors as well. Telecommunication, media, and commercial segments are expected to witness significant growth rates over the forecast timeline.
North America solar powered drone market share was the largest in 2015 owing to high adoption rates due to the extensive applications of military drones. Combat and surveillance operations in the critical war zones are projected to enhance growth prospects in the region. Initiatives undertaken by aviation regulatory authorities and government, such as EASA in Europe and FAA in the U.S., will drive the growth till 2024. Asia Pacific region is expected to be the major regional segment due to high investments by countries such as Japan, India, and China for military and commercial purposes.
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Key participants holding major solar powered drone market share include Airbus (QinetiQ), Boeing Phantom Works, Google (Titan Aerospace), and Facebook (Ascenta). Other participants include AeroVironment/NASA, Lockheed Martin (Hale-D), Bye Engineering, and Atlantik Solar. Solar powered aviation has witnessed a steep rise in R&D expenditure in the last two years prior to 2015.
Collaborations, mergers, and acquisitions are expected to remain the primary focus for the key players to claim significant market presence over the forecast timeframe. For instance, Airbus and its subsidiary acquired Zephyr assets from QinetiQ, a British defense technology company in 2013. This strategy was significant for its futuristic scope as Zephyr had a track record of overcoming three world records in 2010.
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