Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are autonomous aircraft that are remotely controlled from ground or through onboard computers. Standard UAVs are available in various sizes. While the large-sized drones that are utilized for tactical missions are powered by internal combustion engines, smaller sized UAVs are chiefly battery-powered by electric motors. However, since the last decade, the arrival of the latest technologies has led to the development of battery-powered UAVs by hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid-electric propulsion engines. Solar-powered UAV platforms use photovoltaic panels to soak up energy from the sun and convert it into electricity to provide thrust to the engines.
The two applications – defense and military – account for the largest market share, attributed to the employment of solar-powered UAVs in search and rescue operations, pollution observance, security, disaster management, attack missions, and communication applications. The civil & commercial segment is expected to grow at a quicker rate, attributed to its usage in skilled aerial photography and surveillance, agriculture, information assortment, recreation and hobby, filmmaking, journalism, law enforcement, scientific research, conservation, anti-poaching activity, mineral, oil and gas production and exploration, disaster relief, archaeology, traveler transport, and payload transport.
UAV market for commercial applications is majorly influenced by the rise in adoption of UAVs in military application. Aerial vehicle manufacturers are already providing small UAVs for various applications to clients; these UAVs are used for aerial photography and information collection in agricultural farming, solar farming, and mining. It has been discovered that UAVs can presently replace planes and helicopters to map thousands of hectares of crop areas expeditiously. One of the solar-powered UAV makers, Sunbird Group, has already launched a solar-powered UAV, integrated with a primary sensor/camera and thermal imaging cameras, which have major applications within the agricultural industry.
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Major Key Players
AeroVironment, Inc. (U.S.),
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (Germany),
Bye Aerospace (U.S.),
Lockheed Martin (U.S.), and Thales Group (France).
The global solar-powered UAV market is estimated to grow at a CAGR over 13% during the forecast period of 2017-2023.
One of the key factors driving the growth of the worldwide solar-powered UAV market is the different flight ranges with increase in capacity of each flight. The acceptance of solar-powered drones in civil & commercial applications has raised the scope to enhance their technology. The restricted capability of conventional drones remains to be a major issue in case of commercial drones. In order to diminish this restraint, government agencies together work with defense contractors to develop solar-powered UAVs, which may fly over jet stream. In addition, solar-powered UAVs are extraordinarily crucial in unsafe missions with manned aircraft. Another driver for this market is the increased security and surveillance activities.
However, there are some restraining factors impeding the expansion of the solar-powered UAV market. The challenges include dissimilar restrictions and laws, technical constraints, and deferred or withdrawn funds. The utility of solar-powered drones depends, for the most part, on the restrictions and laws of the state where these UAVs are operated. Commercial segments, such as agriculture, entertainment, telecommunications, and journalism, among others, have focused on the commercial feasibility of solar-powered drones. Moreover, in many regions across the world, superior quality internet services coverage is restricted only to urban sections of the society, due to which only one-third of the total world population uses superior quality internet services, thus, restricting the growth of the solar powered UAV market.
Based on region, the global solar-powered UAV market is segmented into North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. In the U.S., solar-powered UAVs are majorly used for defense and military functions. Moreover, major countries, such as Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, are increasing their solar-powered UAV production capacities. The U.S. is dominating the market, owing to high investments from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense.
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