Global Aerostat Systems Market Report Information by Product Type (Balloon, Airship, and Hybrid), by Class (Compact-Sized, Mid-Sized, and Large-Sized), by Payloads (EO/IS, CI, INS, Radar, and Thermal Imaging Camera), and by Region – Forecast to 2023.
An aerostat is a system that uses lighter than air gases, such as helium, hydrogen, and hot air gases, to provide a lift to the aerostat from the ground surface. They are used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance by military forces and also in civilian observation. The operating cost associated with aerostat is low when compared to unmanned aerial systems, which are expensive and have limited endurance. Aerostat requires less crew for its operation and also, the maintenance is low because it has less mechanical parts. The wide range of applications provided by aerostat systems generates a large demand for persistent ISR solutions, which drives the market. The latest trend in the industry is the HD thermal imaging, a new feature of the aerostat systems, which provides images, during day and night, by eliminating the obstacles of terrains. Moreover, the joint developments of companies have led to the enhancement of aerostat systems.
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The demand for aerostat systems is continuously increasing due to its wide range of applications, cost-effectiveness, low operational costs, easy to deploy, and low personnel expertise. There is a strong demand from military and homeland security for surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance, which has led to new investments. For example, Lockheed Martin received a contract for Persistent Threat Detection aerostat systems from the U.S. Army. The main purpose of this investment is to detect improvised explosive devices and the system can provide round-the-clock surveillance for long-range distances. Moreover, Lockheed Martin has delivered 8,000 aerostats for commercial and military use and had contracts to supply aerostat surveillance systems to deploy in Iraq. In Addition, the RAID program by the U.S., which utilizes surveillance equipment, has led the U.S. army to monitor important locations. The aerostats used in the U.S. Army program, named persistent ground surveillance system, has low operating cost when compared to using UAV, which likely contributes to the growth of the market. In recent years, vendors are facing high acquisition risk due to significant technical challenges, such as difficulties in software development and overweight components, which has driven up the costs and delays in schedule. For example, the Pentagon is facing difficulties in developing aerostats for gathering intelligence and reconnaissance, due to technical and design problems, which has resulted in delays in schedule and making the aerostat more expensive.
As aerostats are lighter than air vehicles, they are facing significant operational hazards. Wind speed, lightning, and visibility are the major limiting factors for aerostat capabilities, which pose threats to the operations of aerostats. Its operations must be ceased before the arrival of hazardous weather conditions and the platform used must be lowered to prevent damage to payload or platform. Moreover, high winds can make the aerostat difficult to control, reduce on-station endurance, and increase fuel consumption.
Aerostat systems with long endurance have faced problems due to the shortage of helium gas for refill. In Afghanistan, one of the airships ran into a problem as it needed helium gas, but DLA Energy (the supplier of helium) was unable to provide helium on time due to shortage. Manufacturing helium in bulk is a very lengthy process and hence, it has become one of the major challenges.
The aerostat systems market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 13%, during the forecast period of 2017-2023.
The U.S., being the largest military spender across the world, is investing in aerostat systems for the purpose of surveillance and border security. Some of the investments, such as Drone Aviation, received an order to enhance the aerostat systems from a prime contractor of defense in the U.S. The main purpose is to enhance systems where new technologies, such as advanced optics, wireless electronics, infrared images, and communication package, are used. The U.S. Army will provide intelligence systems to Afghanistan, which will enable the soldiers to hear enemy radio communication and detect enemy’s location.
The growth in Europe Middle East & Africa (EMEA) is majorly contributed by the Middle East due to increasing budgets and continuous need for the nation’s safety. Gulf States, such as UAE and Kuwait, have invested in aerostat systems to monitor borders and airspace. In the year 2014, a total of 353 aerostats was sold and by 2018, it is further expected to deliver 962 aerostats that will contribute to the growth in the market.
TCOM and Bintang Kencana signed a MOU to supply aerostat system for the maritime security and safety for Malaysian citizens, which is likely to contribute to the growth of the market. Similarly, in 2011, it was reported that Augur-RosAero Systems had an agreement with China, to supply an aerostat system for the country, which is the third largest tethered aerostat.
Furthermore, the Pentagon has plans to deliver weapon systems to Iraq that will help them to prevent terrorist activities.
Israel aerospace industries were awarded a contract for providing communication intelligence systems, which would be installed in aerostats and ground vehicles. This configuration will help to monitor large areas and persistent surveillance, while minimizing the obstacles of the terrain. Moreover, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in India, has developed an aerostat, which is equipped with electro-optic and communication intelligence payload. This will help them to perform surveillance in Agra and interception of communication.
The key players for this market are Aero Drum Ltd (U.K), AUGUR – RosAeroSystems (Russia), Drone Aviation (U.S.), ILC Dover (U.S.), Lindstrand Technologies Limited (U.S.), Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.), Raven Industries Inc. (U.S.), Raytheon Company (U.S.), RT LTA systems ltd (Israel), and TCOM L.P (U.S.).
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