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Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Type (Small, Medium, and Large), By Application (Scientific Research, Defense, and Oil & Gas Industry), By Propulsion System (Electric System, Mechanical System, and Hybrid System), By Payload (Camera, Sensors, Inertial Navigation System, and Others), and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028

Last Updated: July 01, 2024 | Format: PDF | Report ID: FBI105907



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The global autonomous underwater vehicle market size was USD 1.16 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow from USD 1.33 billion in 2021 to USD 4.17 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 17.80% in the 2021-2028 period. North America dominated the autonomous underwater vehicle market with a market share of 33.62% in 2020.


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The global impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and staggering, with underwater vehicles witnessing a negative impact on demand across all regions amid the pandemic. Based on our analysis, the global market exhibited a huge decline of -8.23% in 2020 as compared to the average year-on-year growth during 2017-2019. The sudden rise in CAGR is attributable to this market’s demand and growth, returning to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic is over.

An autonomous underwater vehicle is an unmanned submersible vehicle that works autonomously and is propelled by propulsion systems, such as hybrid, mechanical, and electric. It can be applied for commercial and military applications, such as intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) activities, border protection patrol, scientific research, and the oil & gas industry. It has become an ideal system for sea mapping and seafloor imaging to collect large amounts of data. The major hydrographic mission is carried out by underwater vehicles in various countries, owing to cost-effective technology, high accuracy, ultra-deep-sea capabilities, and numerous sensors for data collection.

Nowadays, there is increasing demand for deep-sea exploration in oceanography, which drives the autonomous underwater vehicle market growth. An increase in commercial uses of such vehicles from scientists and marine experts across the globe fosters the market growth. For instance, in 2020, the French National Institute for Ocean Science (IFREMER) selected iXblue’s subsea technology for 6000-meter autonomous underwater vehicles. iXblue is specially designed for ultra-deep-water surveys and research-related work. The system also includes combining sonar, acoustic positioning, and inertial navigation.


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Adoption of Artificial Intelligence-enabled Autonomy to Fuel Demand for AUVs

The underwater robot or underwater vehicle technology is projected to provide attractive opportunities for manufacturing companies operating in the market. Key OEMs introduced advanced and reliable communication technology that can solve major problems in underwater vehicles. The development of cost-effective communication technology for underwater vehicles with excellent disturbance tolerance elements will fuel market growth at a significant rate in the future. Major companies, such as Boeing, Thales, and BAE Systems, have introduced autonomous vehicles. Autonomy is expected to bring substantial changes in the underwater warfare scenario.

Unmanned vehicles will be capable of long-range endurance attacks, surveillance operations, and a minefield. Integrating artificial intelligence will enhance real-time communication, undersea strikes, autonomous navigation, and surveys. Several companies are developing fully autonomous vehicles with excellent capabilities of long-range endurance attack, ISR operations, and minefield and surveillance operations. In May 2021, the government of Germany allocated USD 14.5 million as part of the Maritime Research Program to develop a novel autonomous robotics system. It is controlled by artificial intelligence that will improve operational ranges and mission durations. The U.S. Navy manages the major development Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA) program to evaluate levels of autonomy in unmanned underwater submarine technology. These factors are projected to fuel the market growth in future.


Increasing Deep-Water Offshore Oil & Gas Production to Propel Market Growth

An autonomous underwater vehicle is a robotic system that can be operated underwater without human intervention. These are widely used in ocean exploration activities for several underwater applications, such as scientific research, commercial, and security. In 2019, the Gulf of Mexico witnessed new oil discovery by key companies, including Shell, Chevron, Repsol, and Equinor. Shell has been successful in Deepwater well-exploration projects, which discovered oil well of around 400 feet deep. The new exploration was projected to produce more than 900,000 barrels by 2020.

According to the International Energy Agency, the demand for natural gas is projected to grow at 1.5% up to 2025. The global oil & gas production growth is projected to increase in Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Israel, and Iraq, specifically in large conventional projects from 2019 to 2025. Russia and other gas-producing countries are likely to increase supply to the export-oriented projects. The oil & gas industry is anticipated to play an important role in the future, and it is forecast to account for over 44% share of the World’s primary energy supply in 2050. The oil & gas industry widely uses unmanned underwater vehicles for detailed study in making maps of the seafloor before starting subsea infrastructure projects.

Rising Demand for AUVs for Border & Coastal Security to Boost Market Growth

Autonomous underwater vehicles have become mainstream for the military, navy, and coastal security forces, especially subsea operations. The U.S. Navy extensively uses these vehicles for various applications, such as mine countermeasures (MCM), intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance, inspection/identification (ID), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The Navy has accelerated acquisition strategies for the faster purchase of underwater vehicles to counter major challenges from China.

In 2020, U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command Washington signed a contract worth USD 11.1 million with Boeing to upgrade naval operations. The company will upgrade for future naval operations such as guidance& control, navigation, situational awareness, mission sensors, propulsion, and core communication. Furthermore, in February 2019, the U.S. Navy signed a contract worth USD 43 million with Boeing to develop an Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLAUV). Under the agreement, the company built and delivered four undersea vehicles to improve Navy maritime capabilities across the region. The U.S. Navy requested around USD 579.9 million for R&D funding in 2021.


Less Reliability and Uncertainty in Operational Performance in Communication Systems Hamper the Market Growth

AUV is an autonomous vehicle loaded with advanced components that can be operated for various underwater applications without human intervention. It is loaded with multiple sensors network and navigation systems hardware connected to signal transmission for real-time communication, and data gathering. Communication and signal transmission are the major problems in underwater technology due to the distortion of transmission possible under the water.

The networks designed for quick ratification and communication do not work under the water and time out waiting for responses. Acoustic signals move more slowly than radio waves and take two seconds to travel back and forth in a 1.5-kilometer distance. Thus, it reduces reliability and causes operational failure in many applications requiring real-time information. Several other factors are anticipated to hamper signal transmission due to environmental conditions such as reflection, refraction, and signal absorption.


By Type Analysis

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The large AUV Segment Dominated the Market Owing to the Increasing Deployment of Vehicles for Commercial and Military Applications

Based on type, the autonomous underwater vehicle market is segmented into small, medium, and large.

The large type segment dominated the global market in 2020. The segment's growth is due to its applications in deep water surveys, underwater pipeline inspections, and the oil & gas industry. In February 2020, the Indian National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) signed a contract with KONGSBERG to procure the HUGIN AUV system. The system has an operating depth of 6,000 meters and will be equipped with a KONGSBERG HISAS 1032 synthetic aperture sonar and EM2040 multi-beam echo sounder. It is used for hydrographic and seabed classification applications.

The small type segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Increasing demand for small underwater vehicles from the naval forces for various applications, such as diver observation, surveillance, search and rescue, and others, drives the growth of this market.

The medium-type segment is anticipated to grow significantly during the forecast period due to increasing demand for military and oil & gas industry applications. KONGSBERG and the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment jointly developed the HUGIN 1000 for various undersea operations.

By Application Analysis

Defense Segment Dominated the Market Owing to Growing Deployment of AUVs for Military Applications

By application, the market is classified into scientific research, defense, and oil & gas industry.

Among these, the defense segment held the highest autonomous underwater vehicle market share in 2020. The growing demand for underwater surveying, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) activities, submarines, naval mines, and other objects is anticipated to boost the growth of this market.

The scientific research segment is anticipated to showcase the highest growth during 2021-2028. The growth is attributed to the increasing use of AUVs for scientific studies. The growing utility of smart AUVs from geologists, mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, and engineers for collecting real-time data drives the segment's growth.

The oil & gas segment will witness a moderate growth rate during the forecast period. The segmental growth is due to the rising demand from offshore operators for the deployment of underwater vehicles for the life of field inspection programs.

By Propulsion System Analysis

Electric System Segment to Show Significant Growth with Growing Adoption of Advanced Power Systems

Based on propulsion systems, the market is trifurcated into electric systems, mechanical systems, and hybrid systems.

The electric system segment dominated the market in 2020. The introduction of advanced power systems for autonomous vehicles, such as Fuel Cell Energy Power Systems (FCEPS), increases the vehicle's capacity. Thus, increasing the use of high-power batteries drives the segment's growth during 2021-2028.

The mechanical system segment is anticipated to grow with a remarkable CAGR during the forecast period. Installation of next-generation control systems and subsystems in the main body propels the market growth during 2021-2028. The introduction of advanced mechanical design balances the roll motion and reduces the control complexity.

By Payload Analysis

Inertial Navigation System Segment to Show Significant Growth Due to Growing Demand for Navigational Accuracy

By payload, the global market is divided into camera, sensors, inertial navigation system, and others.

The inertial navigation system segment held the largest shares in the market. Nowadays, these type of vehicles are used for various operations such as oceanographic surveys, demining, riverine environments, and bathymetric data collection. All these require accurate navigation that enhances safety and effectiveness, thereby driving the segment's growth.

The sensors segment is projected to show the highest growth during the forecast period due to advanced sensors that provide real-time information. Key players are developing advanced sensors that provide real-time data and improve navigation to boost the market growth. In September 2020, Valeport launched the two new miniIPS2 and uvSVX for AUVs that deliver enhanced accuracy for specific depth ranges.

The camera segment is expected to grow with a significant CAGR during the forecast period due to the increasing demand for advanced cameras to capture high-resolution images. The introduction of multiple optical imaging has improved reliability and also brought new options for enhancing the performance of underwater optical imaging systems.


Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Market Size

The market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa.

North America dominated the industry with a market size of USD 0.39 billion in 2020. The highest defense budget and spending on research and development and strengthening naval forces drive North American market growth. Increasing procurement of advanced AUV from the U.S. Navy for ISR operations, search & rescue, and others boosts the region's market.

Asia Pacific is projected to increase at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Growing military expenditure and increased demand for AUVs for commercial applications from China, India, and Japan are likely to drive the market in the Asia Pacific. Rising investments in oil & gas industries and the strengthening of naval forces foster market growth across the region.

Europe is expected to account for significant shares during 2021-2028. The growth is due to increasing spending on the marine sector and growing oil & gas exploration activities in various countries. Furthermore, key OEMs, such as Kongsberg Gruppen A.S.A., Saab AB, and others, underpin the market growth across Europe.

The Middle East will showcase moderate growth during 2021-2028. This growth is owing to the increasing expenditure on the commercial sector from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, and others. The growing procurement of AUVs for numerous naval operations drives the growth of the Middle East market. In July 2017, Saudi Aramco completed the acquisition of Teledyne Gavia to enhance agility in meeting high demands for hydrographic survey services.

Latin America and Africa will grow at lower to moderate growth rates during the forecast period. Increasing partnerships and contracts with OEMs for numerous applications procurement and services of autonomous vehicles are expected to foster regional market growth.


Naval Industry Has Faced Unmatched Challenges Due to COVID-19

The global impacts of COVID-19 have significantly affected the market from 2020 through 2022.

  • According to UNCTAD, international maritime transport plunged by 4.1% in 2020 due to unexpected disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to less business, the disruption mainly hampered the supply chain, shipping network, trade volumes, and port.

  • Investments in the shipbuilding sectors were declining during the pandemic. The decline in shipbuilding services for different offshore services, maritime trade, maritime export, and others has impacted the market.

  • Many small players involved in the maritime industry have gone bankrupt due to less demand for marine systems and the inability to handle the company's finances during the pandemic.


Key Market Players Focusing on Business Expansion Through Contracts, New Product Launches, and Partnerships

Autonomous underwater vehicle OEMs focus on business expansion through new partnerships, agreements, and contracts with government and space companies. In August 2021, General Dynamics Corporation launched a new unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) manufacturing and Assembly Centre of Excellence, which will manufacture, assemble, integrate, and test its Bluefins and Knifefish AUVs. Furthermore, in February 2021, Kongsberg Maritime announced the launch of its next-generation and advanced HUGIN Endurance AUV with long-range and long operational duration.


  • Fugro N.V. (Netherlands)

  • General Dynamics Corporation (U.S.)

  • International Submarine Engineering Ltd. (Canada)

  • Kongsberg Gruppen A.S.A. (Norway)

  • L3Harris Technologies, Inc. (U.S.)

  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.)

  • Oceaneering International Inc. (U.S.)

  • SAAB AB (Sweden)

  • Teledyne Technologies Inc. (U.S.)

  • Boeing (U.S.)


  • September 2021 – Fugro was awarded a contract by TotalEnergies to investigate Geohazard Site in Suriname, which encompasses geophysical data and geotechnical soil samples.

  • April 2021 – Fugro was awarded a contract by Equinor to facilitate a deep-water sea site investigation in Canadian Flemish Pass using Echo Surveyor VIII, Fugro’s newest autonomous underwater vehicle.

  • December 2020 – South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed a contract worth USD 11 million with LIG Nex1 to develop autonomous underwater robots. These are able to perform precise navigation and collision avoidance to boost the Republic of Korea Navy’s mine countermeasure (MCM) capabilities.


An Infographic Representation of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Market

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The autonomous underwater vehicle market research report facilitates a detailed analysis of this market and focuses on key aspects such as top marine companies, types, propulsion systems, and leading applications. Moreover, the report includes market trends, market dynamics, investment plans, business strategies, growth opportunities, and regional development status. Additionally, the factors mentioned above, the market report encompasses several direct and indirect factors that have contributed to the market's growth over recent years.




Study Period


Base Year


Estimated Year


Forecast Period


Historical Period



Value (USD Billion)


Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Geography

By Type

  • Small AUVs (Depth up to 100 meters)

  • Medium AUVs (Depth up to 1,000 meters)

  • Large AUVs (Depth more than 1,000 meters)

By Application

  • Scientific Research

  • Defense

  • Oil & Gas Industry

By Propulsion System

  • Electric System

  • Mechanical System

  • Hybrid System


By Payload

  • Camera

  • Sensors

  • Inertial Navigation System

  • Others

By Geography


  • North America (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

  • Europe (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

  • Asia-Pacific (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

  • Middle East (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

  • Latin America (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

  • Africa (Type, Application, Propulsion System, Payload, and Country)

Frequently Asked Questions

Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was USD 1.16 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 4.17 billion by 2028.

The market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 17.80% during the forecast.

The large AUV segment is expected to be the leading segment in this market during the forecast period.

Boeing, Fugro N.V., and Kongsberg Gruppen are the leading players in the global market.

North America held the highest market share in 2020.

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