By BIS Research
The era of unmanned vehicles (UVs) has begun, and the number of unmanned vehicles keeps growing gradually while expanding their range of applications. In the past, UAVs were limited to mostly defense applications. Technological advancement and reduction in the size of the UAVs over the last decades have opened up new opportunities for broader application. UVAs have emerged as a powerful tool in a range of commercial applications like precision agriculture, surveying, aerial photography, and mapping, among others. In the commercial sector, UAVs have garnered prominence in the form of drone-as-a-service.
The manufacturers and service providers in the UAV market are rolling out products based on consumer needs, and are actively studying the consumer trend across commercial and defense sector. Such consumer-centric innovation has resulted in high demand for UAVs. In addition to this, the exemptions provided by government and regulatory authorities for the operation of commercial UAVs also propelled the growth in the market. As per the Federal Aviation Administration's registration database, the sales of hobbyist UAVs and commercial UAVs was reported to be 2.5 million units in December 2016 and it is expected to rise up to 7 million units by 2020 in the U.S.A alone.
The UAV manufacturers have successfully sold their products across different commercial applications despite their limitations with visual line of sight (VLOS) operation. Governments of different countries are taking appropriate measures to incorporate UAVs into the airspace for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operation, which will further expand the application areas for UAVs in the commercial as well as the government sector. The companies in the UAV market have been increasingly focused on enhancing the technological capabilities of their respective products to expand their geographical presence.
Unmanned aircraft and its implications
In order to securely accommodate manned aviation, VLOS, and BVLOS unmanned aircraft in low-altitude airspace an efficient approach is required, one which will have arrangements for accommodating diversity, and increasing the demand in the future.
The unmanned aircrafts used for the commercial applications are expected to operate at low-levels (below 500ft.). To ensure safe and secure operation unmanned aircrafts will have to comply with current safety standards. Currently, air traffic management (ATM) is used to manage the traffic of manned aviation in the airspace. However, due to its limitations, the ATM cannot be used to manage UAV traffic, which has paved the way for developing an exclusive traffic management system for drones, known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) system.
Managing drone traffic through UTM systems
The UTM system is an upcoming phenomenon that is envisioned for managing drone traffic in the lower level of the airspace. The system is primarily being developed for small drones (i.e. drones with weight up to 55lb) that will fly 500 ft. above the ground level. UTM system is planned to be a complex system providing an end-to-end service. It will be connected to different data providers to accumulate real-time information of weather, airspace traffic, drone registration, and credentials of drone operators, among others. According to the market intelligence report titled ‘Global UAS Traffic Management (UTM) System Market', the UTM system is anticipated to reach $3.62 billion by 2026.
Based on the current rate of development in the technology, it is expected that a working architecture of the UAS traffic management system will be ready by 2019-2020 in most parts of the world in the most optimistic scenario. However, looking realistically at this, the architecture will more likely be ready before 2025. Its use in urban delivery will begin gradually post completion of the regulatory framework.
As the system is not available commercially currently, all stakeholder companies are working together to assist government and regulatory authorities to draft rules and regulations. Some of the key players in the UAS traffic management system market are AirMap, Unifly, and Skyward.io, 3D Robotics, Airware, Altitude Angel, Analytical Graphics, Inc., DeDrone, DJI Innovation, Gryphon Sensors, Kittyhawk.io, Microdrones, PrecisionHawk, SenseFly, and vHive.
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