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Unmanned Helicopter Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Type (Small (0-20 lbs) and Medium (21-55 lbs)), By Application (Military [ISR, Combat, Search & Rescue, Transportation, Naval Support, and Border Support], Government Agency [Planning, Inspection, Surveying, Public Safety, and Search & Rescue], Industrial [Planning, Inspection, Surveying]), and Regional Forecast, 2022-2029

Last Updated: July 01, 2024 | Format: PDF | Report ID: FBI103990



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The global unmanned helicopter market size was valued at USD 5.19 billion in 2021. The market is projected to grow from USD 5.67 billion in 2022 to USD 15.12 billion by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 15.09% during the forecast period. North America dominated the unmanned helicopter market with a market share of 34.1% in 2021. 


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The global COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and staggering, with unmanned helicopters experiencing lower-than-anticipated demand across all regions compared to pre-pandemic levels. Based on our analysis, the global unmanned helicopter market exhibited a decline of -2.1% in 2020 as compared to 2019.

Unmanned helicopter is generally used by the military for surveillance, maritime missions, inspection, and others. The energy sector is anticipated to develop new opportunities by introducing advanced technology in the unmanned product category. It is expected to support maintenance infrastructure projects across the transportation and warehousing industry. Recently, the U.S. has increased its investment in UAV technology and is anticipated to boost market sales. Various institutes develop the product for specific scientific research applications, including prototype development of modern technology, environmental monitoring, and educational platform. The rise in demand for the product is due to increased military budgets of developing and developed economies such as the U.S., China, India, and Russia.


Pandemic Had a Negative Impact on Market Due to Disruption in Supply Chain

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global catastrophe, with the government making active efforts to improve hospital infrastructure, health facilities, and basic medical facilities across the world. There have been drastic defense budget cuts from the developed countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Russia, China, and India. This has affected the global trade fall by 13% to 32% due to lack of confidence in the market, risk in new investment, and fewer business opportunities in various countries, which resulted in the decline of the market. Several governments are attempting to balance policy objectives in many terms that include monetary policies, fiscal policies, and healthcare packages. Moreover, disruption in the supply chain and shut down of manufacturing units slowed the market growth.

The increasing adoption of unmanned systems in the pandemic situation across the globe to support regular medical supply, health care kits, and PPE kits will fuel the demand in the forthcoming years. The industry is witnessing positive development due to autonomous air traveling benefits and contact-free services in several countries. Several major companies invest time and money in new product development and innovation to gain a competitive advantage in the market.


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Development of Technologically Advanced Pocket Size Unmanned Helicopter to Propel Market Growth

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have grown into an essential part of military operations. Especially for surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance support, on the battlefield, several countries are developing UAVs that provide access to remote locations with real-time information. The FLIR systems developed the PD-100 Black Hornet, the smallest unmanned helicopter, adopting the most advanced technology. PD Black Hornet is developed and constructed of a rugged plastic molded shell with an aerodynamic shape to resist stormy winds. It includes a length of 100 mm and a rotor of 120 mm, along with 160 gm of weight that contains a guard camera.

Black Hornet has flown at a speed of 10 m/s with a maximum of 25 minutes. A steerable electro-optic camera installed on a black hornet provides still video displayed on a hand-held device. The camera additionally shows a zoom option for the clear picture quality operating the ground station control. The autopilot system has another feature installed on the board with a two-mode option that is performed manually or programmed for the predefined path using a GPS.

  • In April 2021, FLIR Systems was awarded a contract worth USD 15.4 million by the U.S. Army to deliver FLIR Black Hornet 3 Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS). These nano-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are expected to increase reconnaissance and small unit-level surveillance abilities as part of the Army's Soldier Borne Sensor program.


Strong Demand for Helicopter Drone for Commercial Applications to Propel Growth

Helicopters are well-suited for quasi-static positioning of advanced sensors in 3D space with high precision. Even in windy conditions, these helicopters offer precise flight control and operations in cluttered environments due to their maneuverability and ability to fly at any low speed.

There is a rising interest in deploying these helicopters for photogrammetric survey, forest monitoring, and infrastructure inspection, which are based on remote sensing tasks.

In April 2020, UAVOS Inc. performed a successful flight test with the UVH-170 cargo delivery unmanned helicopter, carrying out an automated delivery that flew from a vendor to a destination and back using pre-selected routes.

Adoption of Fire Scout Unmanned Helicopter in the Military to Improve the Battlefield Management

The rise in demand for unmanned technology is due to the changing battlefield management and warfare technique and the need to modernize conventional military equipment. To keep up with the technological progress on the battlefield, modernization is necessary. The increasing demand for upgrading is anticipated to drive the market; hence, many countries are focusing on upgrading their defense forces.

  • For instance, in 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense spent USD 718.69 billion to enhance its combat capabilities and modernize its armed forces. The plan involves the procurement of surveillance equipment, air defense system, unmanned helicopter, warships, submarines, missiles, and others which are predicted to boost the market growth.

The militaries of various countries around the world are planning to obtain warships, submarines, missiles, unmanned rotorcrafts, air defense systems, surveillance equipment, and others which will increase their market growth.

  • In May 2020, the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman signed a contract for MQ-8C Fire Scout flight testing with multi-mode surveillance radar Leonardo AN/ZPY-8, which is equipped in the helicopter. The AN/ZPY-8 will provide the Fire Scout UAS with active electronically scanned array capabilities allowing it to detect a variety of targets.


High Cost of Helicopter Drones and Strict Regulations to Hinder Market Growth

Technology firms have brought up multiple possible drawbacks that affect the unmanned helicopter market growth throughout the forecast period. These drawbacks include lack of transparency in government regulations, privacy, safety, security, and usage restrictions. The standards and guidelines mentioned by the government authorities for UAVs are very strict. For the management, operational, and delivery functions of an unmanned aerial service firm, these guidelines are to be followed compulsorily. Even for commercial use, strict guidelines are to be implemented by the governments such as safety & risk mitigation and unmanned rotorcraft service and flight operations.

Component Failure and Design Constraints to Hamper Growth

Many military applications require higher efficiency, wide frequency, and compatibility to operate under severe conditions. Hence, the complexity of the design must be increased. The unmanned rotorcraft's size and performance are limited by the techniques and fundamental theories. Even though the product can be used in rougher environments, shattering damages can be caused on a battlefield due to any type of equipment failure. But the restrictions in the design and development of military unmanned rotorcrafts are preventing the market growth.


By Type Analysis

Medium Segment Anticipated to Dominate Due to Increased Product Demand for Industrial Applications

Based on type, the market is segmented into small (0-20 lbs) and medium (21-55 lbs).

The medium segment is estimated to be the largest due to the high demand for military and commercial applications. The growth can be attributed to an increase in demand for emergency cases, cargo transport, border security, and surveillance application. The industrial unmanned helicopter has wide applications due to its long battery life and high altitude benefits. These factors are projected to fuel market growth in the coming years.

The small segment is expected to grow at a higher CAGR through the projection period owing to the rise in demand for small unmanned aerial vehicles for numerous applications across the globe, which will propel the growth of this segment during the forecast period.

By Application Analysis

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Government Agency Segment Dominates the Market Due to Growing Use of the Product for Forest Monitoring

Based on application, the market is classified into military, government agency, and industrial.

The military segment is further segmented into ISR, combat, search & rescue, transportation, naval support, and border patrol. The rise in government spending to purchase UAVs, tactical and analytical systems to secure border security, and surveillance in various countries is the key reason for the growth of the market.

The government agency segment is further classified into planning, inspection, surveying, public safety, and search & rescue. Government agencies use unmanned helicopters for numerous objectives such as forest monitoring, wildlife monitoring, and other applications.

The industrial segment is further segregated into planning, inspection, and surveying. The industrial application segment is expected to grow at the fastest rate due to the rise in demand for aerial imaging, aerial photography, and inspection applications.


North America Unmanned Helicopter Market Size, 2021 (USD Billion)

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

North America stood at a market size of USD 1.77 billion in 2021. The advent of technology has led to a rise in modernization of defense structures in the aviation sector. The supremacy of this area can be attributable to the increasing presence of key competitors in the market such as VELOS ROTORS LLC. and AeroVironment Inc. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps launched a naval fully autonomous teaming ability during an exercise in California and increased demand for unmanned helicopter service and UAV technology. The industry is well-scoped due to this and the presence of favorable government regulations and essential infrastructure structures in the U.S. and Canada.

Asia Pacific is anticipated to witness remarkable growth in this market during the forecast period. The market growth is attributed to the growing technology in the defense industry in Asia Pacific and Europe, increasing number of operations, rising demand for stations, and increasing demand for search and rescue operations and border patrolling.

Europe will showcase substantial growth from 2022 to 2029. This is owing to the increased availability of innovative technology-based and leasing facilities. The market in the region is growing due to rising investments by key players in developing and adopting innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies that would improve unmanned flight launch and landing service operations. Airbus Helicopters conducted the first round of autonomous take-off and landing tests using a modified rotorcraft as part of its unmanned air system development for the French Navy.

The market in the Middle East shows growth in a moderate pattern. The arrival of modern facilities and investing strategies in defense have increased in the UAE and other Middle East countries. Also, improving the region's financial condition is benefitting economic growth, which is expected to support the market's growth throughout the forecast period.


Strong Product Portfolio of Northrop Grumman, AeroVironment Inc., and FLIR System to Lead the Market

The market is fragmented due to the presence of several companies having a strong product portfolio and their priority on improving the expansive diffusion network of primary developed and emerging countries. Currently, Northrop Grumman, AeroVironment Inc., and FLIR System are leading the market, accounting for a dominant share in 2021; however, there is a lack of strong entry barriers, thereby leading to an increasing number of domestic players entering the market.

Other key players, such as UMS Skeldar, Schie Corporation, LAFLAMME AERO INC., STEADICOPTER, and Quantum, have entered the market competition with developed and modern unmanned rotorcraft products. The introduction of a creative small unmanned aerial system for military application and massive investment in the expansion of modern technologies for ISR missions are some of the major strategies that market players are adopting in the market.





  • CybAero AB (Sweden)

  • Alpha Unmanned Systems (Spain)

  • Schiebel Corporation (Austria)

  • HELIPSE (France)

  • Aeroscout GmbH (Switzerland)

  • HighEye (Netherlands)

  • Anduril Industries (U.S.)

  • Aeryon/FLIR (U.S.)

  • Quantum Systems (Germany)

  • Northrop Grumman Corporation (U.S.)

  • UMS Skeldar (Switzerland)

  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.)

  • Saab Group (Sweden)


  • February 2022 – Curtiss-Wright established a partnership with Teledyne FLIR Defense to deliver unmanned systems and integrated solutions to the nuclear power business and the Department of Energy in the U.S. (DOE)

  • July 2021 – The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) awarded Schiebel a three-year extended contract for the maintenance of its Camcopter S-100 Uncrewed Aviation System (UAS). The expansion allows RAN to take advantage of the S-100 and continue experimenting and learning.


An Infographic Representation of Unmanned Helicopter Market

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The research report provides a detailed unmanned helicopter market analysis. It focuses on key aspects such as leading companies, types, and applications of the product. Besides this, the report offers insights into the market trends and highlights key industrial development and defense applications. In addition to the aforementioned factors, the report encompasses several factors that have contributed to the growth of the developed market in recent years.

Report Scope & Segmentation



Study Period


Base Year


Estimated Year


Forecast Period


Historical Period



Value (USD Billion)


By Type

  • Small (0-20 lbs)

  • Medium (21-55 lbs)

By Application

  • Military

    • ISR

    • Combat

    • Search & Rescue

    • Transportation

    • Naval Support

    • Border Support

  • Government Agency

    • Planning

    • Inspection

    • Surveying

    • Public Safety

    • Search & Rescue

  • Industrial

    • Planning

    • Inspection

    • Surveying

By Geography

  • North America

    • U.S. (By Application)

    • Canada (By Application)

  • Europe

    • U.K. (By Application)

    • Germany (By Application)

    • France (By Application)

    • Russia (By Application)

    • Italy (By Application)

    • Rest of Europe (By Application)

  • Asia Pacific

    • China (By Application)

    • India (By Application)

    • Japan (By Application)

    • South Korea (By Application)

    • Australia (By Application)

    • Rest of Asia Pacific (By Application)

  • Middle East & Africa

    • UAE (By Application)

    • Saudi Arabia (By Application)

    • Israel (By Application)

    • Turkey (By Application)

    • South Africa (By Application)

    • Rest of the Middle East & Africa

  • Latin America

    • Brazil (By Application)

    • Argentina (By Application)

    • Mexico (By Application)

    • Rest of Latin America (By Application)

Frequently Asked Questions

Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was USD 5.19 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 15.12 billion by 2029.

Registering a CAGR of 15.09%, the market will exhibit steady growth during the forecast period (2022-2029).

The small (0-20 lbs) segment is expected to lead this market during the forecast period.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is the leading player in the global market.

North America dominated the market in terms of share in 2021.

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