The increasing demand for remotely operated systems from the US Department of Defense (DoD) has created a multi-billion dollar defence industry worth more than US$2.9bn last year, according to a report by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan.

The firm’s US Unmanned Systems Markets report says the market could reach US$3.5bn in 2016.

In the report, Frost & Sullivan says the market is expected to plateau in the mid- to long-term as technology matures.

According to Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Lindsay Voss, changes in the political sphere and a lack of new unmanned system programmes represent potential roadblocks to continued progress, which will curtail market growth between 2010 and 2016 and will affect companies that have depended heavily on the DoD the most.

“Companies that had once tried to breakthrough this market have now focused their efforts on electro-optical and infrared sensors, miniaturised synthetic aperture radar, collision avoidance systems, tactical data links, and ground control stations,” Voss says.

“In the unmanned systems market, the focus tends to be on the platform itself, and several companies have been successful in selling their platforms to the DoD.

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“However, for companies to continue thriving in the market, it will be crucial to explore new methods to optimise system capabilities, including the enhancement of communication systems and payloads.”

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh