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The global small drone market size was valued at USD 14.04 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from USD 16.90 billion in 2023 to USD 77 billion by 2030, exhibiting a CAGR of 24.2% during the forecast period.
A small drone is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed for relatively short-range flights and small enough to be operated by a single person. These drones are typically lightweight and have low Maximum Weight Take-Off (MWTO). They are commonly referred to as micro drones, mini drones, or nano drones, and used for various commercial and non-commercial applications including defense, aerial photography, surveying & mapping, and inspection of infrastructure.
Moreover, small drones are powered by either batteries or fuel. They are also equipped with advanced sensors and cameras including GPS, gyroscopes, accelerometers, and high-resolution cameras to capture detailed images and data about their surroundings. Increased demand for drone-based services from various applications is expected to drive the global small drone market growth from 2023 to 2030.
Russia-Ukraine War to Positively Impact Market Due to Increasing Military Expenditure on UAVs for Combat Operations
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has increased the usage of drones for military purposes, with both countries utilizing them to monitor each other's military activities, equipment, and personnel. This has resulted in increased expenditure on the military sector for combat purposes. For instance, in January 2023, the Ukraine government announced plans to increase its procurement of UAVs for the country’s armed forces by allocating almost USD 550 million to purchasing drones. Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have used various UAVs, also known as drones, for reconnaissance and attack missions.
For instance, in March 2023, the Ukraine government announced that it was expanding its drone program for reconnaissance and attacking enemy targets from longer distances. The government also announced that it was collaborating with more than 80 Ukraine-based drone manufacturers.
Additionally, in September 2022, according to the state-owned corporation Rostec, Russia's KUB and Lancet kamikaze drones were extensively deployed during combat operations in Ukraine. The Russian military is actively employing ZALA Aero's UAVs. These small drones are primarily used to strike remote ground targets.
COVID-19 Fueled Market Growth with Increased Demand for Contactless Deliveries and Medical Supplies for Healthcare Sector
The COVID-19 pandemic propelled the global small drone industry progress. Drones were used for contactless delivery of goods and monitoring compliance with social distancing measures. These machines were also used to deliver medical supplies and disinfect public spaces to reduce the risk of infection.
During the pandemic, the logistics industry also witnessed a surge in demand for UAV services. Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, drones were utilized to deliver essential goods, such as medical supplies and food. They were particularly useful in covering last-mile deliveries, which is the final stage of the delivery process to the recipient's doorstep.
Healthcare drones were used to deliver medical supplies & samples, enforce quarantine measures, and disinfect public spaces. For instance, Zipline, a drone delivery company, partnered with the Ghanaian government to deliver COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies to remote areas of the country.
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Development of Swarm Drones with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomous Drones is a Prominent Market Trend
Swarm drones, also known as swarms, are a group of drones that work together to complete a process or reach a target. These drones are controlled by a mother ship or central computer that coordinates their actions and allows them to operate as a cohesive unit. With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), swarm drones have the ability to collect data with their sensors and communicate with each other to adapt to changing situations. For instance, in February 2022, Halcon, a subsidiary of the UAE’s Edge Group, unveiled Hunter 2-S, a tube-launched swarming drone system based on AI technology. These small UAVs are expected to share information by communicating with each other through a main channel for tracking and maintaining positions, and engaging with the right target. The Hunter 2-S has a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 8 kilograms. It has a length of 1.25 meters and wingspan of 1.44 meters.
Additionally, autonomous drones are UAVs that can operate without human intervention by using advanced software, sensors, and cameras. These drones are essential in various industries, such as agriculture, construction, mining, and logistics. Autonomous drones can serve various purposes, such as checking crops, analyzing soil, and spraying pesticides in agriculture. They can also survey sites, inspect buildings, and monitor construction in the construction industry. Furthermore, they can deliver packages and manage inventory in the logistics sector. Strategic partnerships & collaborations, and product innovations & developments are also key trends in the market.
Rising Product Demand from Defense Sector for ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) May Catalyze Market Growth
The defense sector is increasingly turning to small UAVs to provide situational awareness, gather intelligence, and carry out tactical missions. They are highly versatile, which makes them suitable for a variety of military applications. These drones can be used to survey enemy positions, gather intelligence on enemy movements, and even carry out targeted strikes on enemy targets. Drones can also be used to provide real-time information to military commanders. The collected information allows them to make more precise decisions in the field.
For instance, in December 2022, the U.K. Ministry of Defense awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth USD 157 million. As part of the 10-year agreement, the company will deliver more than 250 mini drones to the British army including 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 drones and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones. These new drones are the predecessor of Mini Unmanned Aerial Systems (MUAS), such as Desert Hawk 3, which are currently used by the army. These mini drones are equipped with ISTAR capabilities to provide a wide variety of information to the British army.
Additionally, small UAVs are often more cost-effective when compared with manned aircraft, and they can be deployed more quickly and easily. Moreover, these drones are also able to operate in environments that are too dangerous or difficult for human operators such as in hostile or inaccessible areas. Furthermore, increasing threats of terrorism in countries across the world are catalyzing the growth of this market.
Increasing Demand for Aerial Surveying and Mapping to Boost Market Growth
Aerial surveying and mapping involves capturing thousands of images taken from Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and compiling them together to get a cohesive three-dimensional visual representation of the area of interest. These aerial remote sensing features are necessary for various sectors including agriculture, mining, construction, and infrastructure. Small drones are ideal for such systems as they can capture high-resolution images and process data quickly with the help of advanced sensors and cameras. They can also fly at low altitudes to reach complex areas that cannot be accessed by manned aircraft.
For instance, in 2021, Wingtra, a Switzerland-based VTOL drone manufacturer that develops, produces, and commercializes high-precision VTOL drones that collect survey-grade aerial data, unveiled its next-generation flagship drone. Equipped with an upgraded camera mounted on an oblique angle and a wide field-of-view lens, the WingtraOne GEN II commercial mapping drone captures large swathes of a single area without requiring multiple passes. Additionally, applications of small UAVs have increased in areas such as search & rescue operations, aerial photography, and inspection services. These increased applications of drones are expected to boost the market growth.
Safety, Security, and Privacy Concerns are Expected to Hinder Market Expansion
Small drones can pose a safety risk when flown in crowded or restricted areas. Small UAVs also come with potential threats, such as unintentional collisions with manned aircraft, other objects, or even people. This increases the risk of damage and can become dangerous for passengers. These safety concerns have led to restrictions on where drones can be flown, limiting their use in certain areas.
Additionally, small UAVs are used for malicious purposes, such as smuggling contraband or conducting unauthorized surveillance, which creates more security concerns. For instance, in December 2022, DJI Mavic Pro drone was found attempting to fly drugs worth USD 1.67 million, as discovered by patrolling officers in Australia. When it crashed, the drone was carrying significant amounts of methylamphetamine, tobacco, cannabis, and suboxone strips.
Furthermore, the use of cameras and other sensors in small UAVs raises privacy concerns. They can breach traditional security perimeters at sensitive sites, such as nuclear power plants and public venues, such as sports stadiums and capture images and data without consent. This can potentially lead to the misuse of data and violation of privacy rights.
Rotary Wing Anticipated to Dominate Market Owing to its Beneficial Characteristics
By type, the market is divided into fixed wing, rotary wing, and hybrid wing. The rotary wing segment dominated the small drone market share in 2022. A rotary wing drone, also known as quadcopter, is a type of UAV that utilizes four rotors or propellers to lift and maneuver in the air. This segment is also estimated to be the fastest growing during the forecast period due to the product’s lightweight design and its flight stability, making it suitable for various applications.
The fixed wing segment is expected to register significant growth during the forecast period due to its increasing use in package delivery and transportation as it can fly longer distances. A fixed wing drone is a type of UAV that has a rigid structure with wings similar to an airplane. Unlike rotary wing drones, fixed wing drones rely on forward motion to generate lift and stay aloft.
5 – 25 Kg Segment to Dominate Market Owing to Demand for Search & Rescue Operations and Industrial Inspections
By maximum take-off weight, the market is categorized into less than 5 kg, 5 – 25 kg, and above 25 – 150 kg. The 5 – 25 kg segment dominates the market and is estimated to be the fastest growing segment during the forecast period owing to the rising demand for search & rescue, military operations, and industrial inspections.
The less than 5 kg segment has the second-largest share in the market. It consists of nano, micro, and mini drones. Micro drones are less expensive and easier to operate while mini drones are more capable of carrying out a wide range of commercial applications. The rising demand for commercial applications, such as aerial photography, surveying, and monitoring, is anticipated to boost the less than 5 kg segment.
Fuel Powered Segment to Hold Largest Market Share Due to Growing Demand for Higher Payload Capacities
By power source, the market is bifurcated into fuel powered and battery powered. The fuel powered segment dominated the market share in 2022 owing to rising demand for higher payload capacities. Fuel-powered drones use internal combustion engines to generate power. These engines can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or other types of fuel.
The battery powered segment is expected to register significant growth during the forecast period due to increasing demand for portable and eco-friendly drones. These types of small drones use rechargeable batteries to power their electric motors. They are more efficient and quieter than fuel powered drones.
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Defense Segment to Dominate Market Owing to Increased Demand for Surveillance and Monitoring of Military Applications
The market is segmented into defense, consumer, commercial, and civil by end-use. The defense segment dominated the market in the base year and is expected to be the fastest growing segment due to the rising demand for surveillance and monitoring solutions for military applications.
The commercial segment is predicted to witness significant growth during the forecast period. This is due to the high demand for aerial photography and videography. Furthermore, rising need for drones in renewable energy and oil & gas sectors is also expected to foster the segment’s growth during the forecast period.
North America Small Drone Market Size, 2022 (USD Billion)
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In terms of geography, the market is divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Rest of the World.
North America dominated the market in 2022 and was valued at USD 4.62 billion. This growth is attributed to the presence of major OEMs in the region and rising number of government contracts to expand its military power. For instance, in February 2022, Skydio, a U.S.-based drone manufacturer and automated flight specialist, announced that it had won a contract to supply its X2D UAVs to the U.S. army’s Short-Range Reconnaissance Program (SRR). Valued at USD 20.2 million annually, the fixed-price provision agreement is expected to be worth USD 99.8 million over its five-year duration.
Asia Pacific held the second-largest market share in the base year and is expected to be the fastest growing region during the forecast period. This is due to the rising demand for crop monitoring and surveying solutions in the agriculture sector. For instance, in January 2022, the Agricultural Ministry of India announced a monetary grant program, called Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM), to facilitate the purchase of agricultural drones. Additionally, Asia Pacific has a large and rapidly growing e-commerce industry, which has increased the need for drones for delivery services. Small UAVs are ideal for delivering goods, such as food, medicine, and other consumer products to avoid traffic congestion.
The Europe market is expected to grow considerably during the forecast period due to the rising demand for inspection of the region’s energy infrastructure. For instance, in 2021, the U.K.-based company Sky-Futures announced a new partnership with the oil & gas company Shell to use small UAVs for offshore inspections. This will help improve safety and reduce the costs of inspecting oil rigs and other offshore infrastructure.
The Rest of the World market is anticipated to witness moderate growth during the forecast period. This is due to the fact that the mining and exploration industries are noticing a robust expansion. Small drones are ideal for exploring and surveying mines and other resources, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings.
Technological Advancements and Product Developments are Key Focus Areas of Leading Players
The market is relatively fragmented with key players such as SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., Parrot Drones, AeroVironment Inc., Teledyne Technologies Incorporated, Guangzhou Walkera Technology Co., Ltd., and others. These major players are focusing on technological advancements, product innovations, and expansion into emerging markets to increase their market share. For instance, in May 2022, DJI launched DJI Mini 3 Pro, an ultralight drone weighing just 249 grams. Equipped with a gimballed 1/1.3-inch sensor camera, it can capture images in RAW format of up to 48 MP and record high-quality videos in 4K at 60 fps. Additionally, the drone has a slow-motion mode that captures 120 fps footage at full HD (1080p) resolution.
An Infographic Representation of Small Drones Market
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The research report provides a detailed market analysis. It comprises all major aspects such as R&D capabilities and optimization of the operating services. Moreover, the market report offers insights into the latest small drone market trends, regional analysis, Porter’s five forces analysis, competitive landscape, and highlights key industry developments. In addition to the above-mentioned factors, it focuses on several factors that have contributed to the market growth in recent years.
CAGR of 24.2% from 2023 to 2030
Value (USD Billion)
By Type, Maximum Take-off Weight, Power Source, End-use, and Geography
By Maximum Take-off Weight
By Power Source
As per the Fortune Business Insights study, the market size was USD 14.04 billion in 2022.
The market is likely to record a CAGR of 24.2% over the forecast period of 2023-2030.
The rotary wing segment is expected to lead the market due to its versatility, lightweight design, and accessibility.
The market size in North America stood at USD 4.62 billion in 2022.
The rising demand for small UAVs from the defense sector for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and increasing need for aerial monitoring and surveillance are expected to drive the market forecast.
Some of the top players in the market are SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., Parrot Drones, AeroVironment Inc., Teledyne Technologies Incorporated, and Guangzhou Walkera Technology Co Ltd.
The U.S. dominated the market in 2022.
Safety, security, and privacy concerns are expected to hamper the market growth.
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