The most popular word for them is now drones, giving a military connotation to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs. Certainly, most of the market value today lies in military applications, both for electric and - the big money - non-electric versions. Nonetheless, small UAVs are increasing in sales fastest and that is primarily down to non-military applications. From 2026, civil uses will greatly exceed military in market value so perhaps we should revert to calling them UAVs. A new IDTechEx
report, Electric Drones: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs 2015-2025
forecasts it all but concentrates on hybrid and pure electric versions because these are taking over. Click here
Dr Harrop, Chairman of IDTechEx says, "The biggest market sub-sector will be small UAVs that are not toys or personal, with $2 billion in sales in 2025 generating over $20 billion in benefits in agriculture, border protection, parcel delivery, logistics such as warehousing, coastguard, customs, search and rescue, medical emergency, malaria research, mine detection, protection of rare species, movie production and so on."
For example, Amazon
recently reiterated that they are committed to delivering packages to customers via drones when they get the regulatory support needed. China's biggest internet retailer Alibaba
trialled drone deliveries in the country at the beginning of February. Google
has also been testing drone deliveries in Australia, and DHL
carried out deliveries by unmanned aircraft in Germany.
The list seems endless. We are finding new applications every month and the report particularly concentrates on what has happened in 2014-15 and what comes next in this ferment of change.
That includes technological change, with bodywork becoming electric and electronics to save cost, volume and weight while increasing reliability and life. Such structural electronics as evaluated in the IDTechEx report, Structural Electronics 2015-2025
. Lithium batteries
of 142 manufacturers are compared in chemistry, format and sales success and prospective and actual motor advances evaluated. Other new components coming in include supercabatteries
such as lithium-ion capacitors, silicon carbide and gallium nitride power semiconductors and multi-mode energy harvesting
This unique 200 page report on electric drones has over 120 figures and tables distilling the markets and technology into roadmaps and forecasts by number, unit value and market value 2015-2025. The rapidly changing powertrains, the uses, participants and benefits are discussed.
Adoption of cameras, cost reduction, types, alternatives, legal issues, latest news, new inventions from drones that walk or swim to ones proposed for garnering power - it is all here. Autonomy is addressed and the hype curve in the context of other relevant electric vehicles. Components and systems manufacturers will see the big picture with the full opportunity drone makers and deployers can benchmark.
Beyond the UAV powertrain, with its radically changing motors and so on, there are the telematics, sensor platforms and optics all changing rapidly to become far more functional and lighter in weight.
However, there is even more. The report explains laser powered drones and ones that are planned to do more than just regenerative soaring but even export electricity to earth. Of course, there can be no one size fits all for all this. Fixed wing, multicopter and other configurations will all have a place.
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Top image: Modern Farmer