Unmanned sea systems are crucial for maritime surveillance. The Naval forces globally face maritime challenges related to national defense, piracy, international terrorism, illegal immigration, smuggling, EEZ patrol, and fisheries protection. Increased numbers of maritime threats drive the need for maritime policing. Lack of proper maritime security can hamper international trade and also create political unrest. Maritime security is also necessary to protect ports and critical infrastructures. Thus, for such reasons, including the need to safeguard a country and its people, there has been a growing need for maritime policing. Unmanned sea systems are highly beneficial for maritime surveillance applications. For example, the telepresence system present on UUVs permits underwater observations (in a stealth manner) to be sent directly to the control center. Unmanned sea systems are also largely being deployed for maritime applications where the utilization of manned patrol vessels are comparatively much more expensive to operate.
Unmanned sea systems provide great and diverse operational opportunities for the naval forces. However, these system also present some unique and difficult design challenges. This is because of the need to package a high level of computing power and data collection/distribution elements within minimal size, weight and power constraints, while assuring the ruggedized capabilities to survive and perform in very demanding operational environments. The market for unmanned sea system is thus expected to grow at a steady rate in the next five years. Demand from major markets, such as the U.S. and Europe, and also from the emerging nations in Asia Pacific is expected to contribute in the market growth.
The unmanned sea system technology is still evolving and lags behind the unmanned ground or unmanned air systems. For underwater operations, communication with submerged platforms is one of the major challenges. Furthermore, current UUV technology still has some difficulties to navigate the ocean, and avoid hostile, stealth and maneuverable obstacles. There are issues related to propulsion, energy and payload capacity, which have led to the complexity of the unmanned sea systems.
In recent years, the unmanned sea system has become more advanced in terms of technology and operational capability. The traditional unmanned sea system were mostly remote controlled system, which were either pre-programmed to follow only some basic mission parameters or completely controlled by a human operator. In contrast, the modern unmanned sea system are capable of highly-autonomous operation. In many cases, the system consists of advanced on-board electronics to make real-time decisions and navigation as per mission parameters. The systems are also capable of controling and operating autonomously as per the changing conditions during real-time mission situations. Also, the increased electronics computing and communications capabilities have led to more sophisticated control.
Furthermore, as the unmanned system do not have human on-board, they are not hindered by the physiological limitations of human operator, to operate in challenging environments. As a result, unmanned sea system are being designed for highly autonomous, extended mission capabilities, where these systems can operate for a longer period, and enable continuous surveillance or monitoring of targets. Thus, there has been a growing demand for unmanned sea system that can operate autonomously based on pre-programmed navigation plans and less interference or control from human operator.
The global unmanned sea system market will grow at a CAGR of more than 7% during 2017-2023.
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Emerging nations, such as China and India, have increased their defense budgets, and are expanding their naval systems to strengthen their defense capability. A large part of the naval defense budget goes for the purchase and upgrade of military naval system (including unmanned sea system).
Although the North American and Europe regions have much larger markets for the unmanned sea systems at present, some factors such as the defense budget cuts in the U.S. and the economic slowdown in some European countries, can affect the market growth. Concurrently, the increasing military expenses in the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions have led to a gradual change in the market dynamics. It has been estimated that the emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and China can serve as a much attractive market opportunity for the unmanned sea systems.
According to research from University of California, Berkeley, armed conflicts could further increase by 50% worldwide in the coming decades. Increased tension and territorial disputes at international waters such as South China Sea, East China Sea, and Indian Ocean, have also led to the increased deployment of naval forces in those regions.
In South China Sea, there is an increased risk of conflict involving China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, regarding the territorial and jurisdictional claims. Amid such tensions, China is building naval bases and has deployed many of its naval vessels in the region. Along with the rise in conflict and regional tensions, the need for deployment of naval vessels (including unmanned sea system) also increases.
To maintain the market share and competitiveness, the major vendors should keep track of market dynamics and changing demands. Moreover, they should be capable to provide rapid innovative solutions in the ever-changing military systems market. Thus, vendors should focus on developing UUVs that are capable of persistent oceanographic data collection (or any such possible applications as per the need).
The Unmanned Sea Systems market includes companies such as Balt Robotics(Poland), Bluefin Robotics(Massachusetts), Boston Engineering Corporation(MA), Gate Elektronik(Yenimahalle), Kongsberg(Norway), Atlas Elektronik(Germany), BAE Systems(U.K.), General Dynamics(U.S.), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries(Japan) and Raytheon(U.S.).
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