LONDON — The market for military drones is expected to almost double by 2024 to beyond $10 billion, according to a report published Friday by specialist defense publication IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review.
“The global defense and security market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will expand at 5.5% per year over this decade, from the current figure of $6.4 billion,” according to the analysis.
“Unmanned systems are here to stay,” said Derrick Maple, principal analyst on unmanned systems for the London-based group. “These systems are well established, combat proven, and are an essential and expanding element of future operations across the globe.”
Israel was the top exporter of UAVs last year, but is set to be overtaken by the United States through sales of General Atomics Predator series and Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, according to the report.
Western Europe is forecast to reach $1.3 billion in sales by 2024 as it seeks to reduce its reliance on U.S. and Israeli imports. However, it also faces competition from China, Russia, India, South Korea and Japan — whose combined sales are predicted to reach $3.4 billion by 2024.
The market is being driven by demand for new technology and different ways of using UAVs, according to Jane’s.
“Operators are now moving to expand their mission sets beyond visual surveillance and reconnaissance, and are introducing sophisticated intelligence and electronic warfare systems, as well as a wider range of munitions,” said Huw Williams, unmanned systems editor for IHS Jane’s.
“As technology matures, we are set to see Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) come in to service. These will feature ‘stealthy’ characteristics and advanced payloads and weaponry. They will operate alongside manned aircraft and eventually even replace them in many roles.”
Drones were used extensively by the U.S. military during its operations in Afghanistan, but have since been increasingly used in civil applications.
In related news, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced Sunday that he will double Britain’s drone fleet and warned about the prospect of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Cameron said the government would purchase 20 “Protector” drones and spoke confidently about the prospects of a parliamentary vote to join air strikes targeting the Islamic State group in Syria. The Protectors, to be imported from the United States, can be used as surveillance craft but can also be armed, the Ministry of Defense said Sunday.
Camerson said Britain’s fleet of 10 “Reapers” would be replaced by 20 new models as part of the country’s 2015 Defense Review.
“This will be combined with increasing the capacity of our special forces, so that the country remains ready to address any threats to our nation’s security,” he said in a statement. More drones will “keep us safe and... give us the intelligence and information and potentially give us the capacity to hit people who are potentially planning to hit us”, he told the Sunday Telegraph.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015