The research study covers the growth prospects of the global UAV battery market for 2016-2020. The report presents the market landscape and a corresponding detailed analysis of the five major vendors operating in the market. In addition, the report discusses the major drivers influencing market growth and the challenges faced by vendors and the market as a whole. It also examines key emerging trends and their influence on current and future market scenarios.
“Demand for UAVs is rapidly increasing from developing nations, such as India, China, and Brazil for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” says Arushi Thakur, an industry expert for aerospace components research at Technavio.
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Technavio aerospace and defense analysts highlight the following three factors that are contributing to the growth of the global UAV battery market:
- Growing demand for UAVs
- Improved endurance with enhanced flight range
- Reduction in Li-ion battery costs
Growing demand for UAVs
The UAVs are smaller in size and cost-effective, compared to their manned counterparts. They provide reliable, secure, and modernized digital communication through various systems that are equipped with them. These systems include navigation systems, sensors, engines, autopilots, and communication links. In addition, they feature on-board sensors like synthetic aperture radar (SAR), LASER light, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and GPS.
Currently, UAVs are being increasingly used for suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), communication transfer, combat, search, and rescue (CSAR), electronic attack (EA), destruction of enemy air defense (DEAD), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. Technavio expects that the growing investments in UAVs will raise the number of UAVs from 6,316 to 8,300 during 2012-2017, which augurs well for the growth of the global UAV market.
Improved endurance with enhanced flight range
The adoption of UAVs in commercial and civil applications has increased their utility and has led to an upgradation of existing technologies. Since 2013, major companies such as Facebook and Google have been investing in numerous UAV technologies that can offer internet access in rural areas. Owing to the inability to perform on an autonomous power source, the endurance capability of the conventional UAVs remains the prime concern for commercial UAV operators.
Similarly, the employment of UAVs (small electric-powered UAVs) for ISR applications in the defense domain has been greatly augmented in the last couple of years. However, the limited flight endurance of small UAVs is one of the significant challenges that defense organizations have to deal with. Typically, a small fixed-wing UAV has a flight time of an hour, whereas a small rotary-wing UAV typically has a flight time of half an hour, after which the UAV must be retrieved to recharge or be replaced with a charged battery. Therefore, the flight endurance of these UAVs is directly affected by the limited on-board power capacity.
“Selecting solar technology as the primary source of power is a major driver propelling vendors to develop and offer solar-powered UAVs. A fixed-wing UAV on its large horizontal wing surfaces can accommodate substantially higher units of solar cells, which deliver almost quadruple units of power compared to a battery-powered UAV,” says Arushi.
Reduction in Li-ion battery costs
Li-ion batteries are gaining momentum for their use in UAVs as a result of which the demand for Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) and Nickel-Metal-Hydride (Ni-MH) is decreasing by significant margins.
Another factor which distinguishes the Li-ion batteries from other batteries is their low price. Companies are enhancing these batteries in every possible way, which leads to a reduction in their cost year-over-year. Their costs have dropped at an average of 23% annually, since 2010. During the same period, the energy storage system cost has also dropped at an average of 14%, annually. This has led to a total installation cost reduction of approximately 17%, from USD 3,400/kWh to USD 1,600/kWh, during 2010-2014. In addition, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), battery costs are likely to decrease further to USD 300/kWh by 2020. Thus, the reduction in cost of batteries will lead to an overall increase in demand for these batteries.
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