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The global unmanned underwater vehicles market size was valued at USD 3.02 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from USD 3.34 billion in 2023 to USD 8.14 billion by 2030, exhibiting a CAGR of 13.5% during the forecast period.
Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), also known as underwater drones, are vehicles that can operate below the water surface without the need for human intervention. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, Hybrid Underwater Vehicles, and Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles are the categories into which unmanned underwater vehicles market share is divided.
While Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are controlled without human intervention, remotely controlled underwater vehicles are controlled by humans. These Underwater Vehicles are useful for underwater construction and inspections in the offshore oil & gas industry. The time needed to detect and inspect things has decreased due to improvements in UUV technologies, such as improved manipulator arms, higher-resolution cameras, and more sensitive probes.
Oil & Gas Industry Faced Unprecedented Challenges Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Since, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019, the disease spread to almost 200 countries across the world. This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic. The global effects of COVID-19 started to emerge and strongly affected the market in 2021.
The global oil industry was affected by declining oil and gas demand in several countries. According to forecasts, oil demand decreased by 9.3 mb/d annually in 2020 and 2021, affecting the UUV demand, and gas industry operations. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global maritime traffic decreased by 4.1% in 2020 due to unexpected disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The disruption mainly affected the supply chain, shipping network, cargo volumes, and ports due to reduced business activity. Most shipping operations depend on the data that is collected by unmanned vehicles. Still, supply chain issues and delays in deliveries hindered the market's growth.
Unmanned Underwater Vehicles Demand Has Risen Due to Russia-Ukraine War
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has primarily been a land and air campaign, making armed drones and hypersonic missiles a commonplace in modern warfare. In the maritime region, the Black Sea was strategically important.
The overwhelming naval power of the Russian Navy is mainly due to the lack of deterrence of naval reconnaissance against Ukraine and the way Russia has handled political issues related to the Turkish Bosphorus choke point. Another "not yet fully exploited" arsenal is hiding in the Black Sea for Russian submarines in the conflict zone. These underwater weapons, which have overt and covert roles, are considered critical against Ukrainian and NATO forces.
Germany may need to diversify its equipment portfolio by looking for non-traditional military suppliers. Since Israel has already leased UUVs and UAVs to Germany, the Israeli defense industry could potentially benefit and become a preferred supplier. Another characteristic change is expected from the Nordic region. Norway and Sweden, which had scaled back on joint procurement, could rejoin and embark on joint procurement to improve the interoperability of defense equipment against their common adversary, Russia.
Development of AI & Machine Learning Technology for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles is a Major Market Trend
As technology advances, companies are adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to increase the autonomy of unmanned surface ships and underwater vehicles. Major investments are presently being made in developing new autonomous vehicles to transform the existing remote-controlled vehicles into autonomous vehicles, minimize human intervention, and increase driving efficiency. For instance, in March 2021, XOCEAN added Marine AI software GUARDIAN Vision AI to improve the situational awareness of its surface vessels. The software uses data from the vehicle's camera to identify and classify hazards and transmit location information about those hazards to the train's control system and remote control. In the military sector, China, France, Germany, the U.S., and the Netherlands are rapidly expanding their range of autonomous surface and underwater vehicles. The rapid increase in investments in the development and acquisition of autonomous marine systems is expected to accelerate the development of the market during the forecast period.
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Growing Concerns about Maritime Security and Cross-Border Maritime Threats to Drive Market Growth
Piracy and maritime terrorism are major threats to global shipping, incurring significant economic costs and causing immense danger to human lives. In addition, maritime security is threatened by drug smuggling at sea and migrant smuggling. The use of UUVs to counter such threats and improve maritime security through ISR operations is expected to drive the market growth.
In addition, the market is seeing expansion opportunities due to increasing government investments for innovations, technological breakthroughs, and increasing security control functions. Since underwater communication cables carry a lot of sensitive information between countries, security is a major concern for underwater infrastructures. The surroundings of underwater communication cables are monitored using various sensor technologies.
Unmanned underwater vehicles are also called submarines, unmanned submarines, and underwater robots. This technology is now becoming a staple of the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, especially for undersea operations. The U.S. Navy widely uses such vehicles in key applications, such as reconnaissance, surveillance, and reinforcement, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Mine countermeasures (MCM), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Inspection/Identification (ID).
Rising Oil & Gas Production in Deep Ocean to Propel Market Growth
The offshore sector is dominated by oil and gas facilities. Technological innovations in several developing countries have increased the total energy demand over the last 50 years. Offshore resources are becoming increasingly important in meeting the growing energy demand as traditional onshore resources are depleted. As a result, oil and gas production services have moved to underwater locations.
For instance, in January 2020, China's state-owned company, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), announced that it would increase its capital spending from 2020 to USD 12.3 billion to USD 13.7 billion. The same year, the company planned to drill 227 exploratory holes and collect 27,000 square kilometers of 3D seismic data. Rapid technological advances in these vehicles, such as data transmission and increased depth are expected to further advance the use of UUVs in the oil & gas industry.
High Operating and Maintenance Costs to Hinder Unmanned Underwater Vehicles Market Growth
The slow pace of underwater exploration and high operating costs of UUVs may limit the market’s expansion. UUVs provide high-quality marine data and various technological advances to industries including the military, oil & gas, and shipping. Warships are equipped with advanced autonomous technology, which is quite expensive. The remaining two members of the UUV distribution network are brokers and post-production service providers. Marketers must reduce administrative costs and improve customer knowledge of their products.
Due to a small number of firms using the distribution company, there is currently little added value. Local and small businesses with the right to distribute and sell UUVs are brokers and sales representatives. Producers sell directly in their markets and through distributors from foreign subsidiaries. These factors can hinder the market’s growth in the coming years.
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles to Gain Traction Due to Their Strong Potential in Underwater Operations
Based on UUV type, the market is segmented into Remotely Operating Vehicles (ROV), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), and Hybrid Underwater Vehicles (HUV). The autonomous underwater vehicle segment accounted for the largest market share due to its huge potential in underwater operations. It is widely used for underwater surveys including ocean data collection and underwater wrecks, and rock mapping.
For Instance, in January 2022, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) announced a new collaboration agreement with Ocean Aero, a manufacturer and service provider of ocean-based Autonomous Subsurface Vehicles (ASuV) and Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV). Ocean Aero and marine services company Shelf Subsea would bring AUSV to Saudi Arabia, augmenting KAUST's research efforts in the Red Sea.
The remotely operated vehicle segment recorded the fastest CAGR due to increased military spending, which leads to high spending on various operational activities, such as hull inspections, ballast tank inspections, and search & rescue operations, which is one of the major growth drivers of this market.
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Increasing Applications in Underwater Vehicles Will Boost Use of Communication & Navigation Sub-System
In terms of sub-system, the market is segmented into propulsion, drive system, collision avoidance, payloads & imaging, and communication & navigation. Due to its data collection application, the communication & navigation segment holds the largest market share. Advances and developments in UUV technology have increased the use of UUVs in various missions, such as military & defense, scientific research, and oil & gas operations. Equipped with cameras, high-frequency imaging sonar, and lighting, it can perform various tasks, such as inspection, collection, and observation.
The propulsion segment will record the highest CAGR during the forecast period. UUVs typically have their power sources, such as batteries or fuel cells, making them even more different than ROVs. An onboard power supply must power the vehicle's drives and onboard instruments. Nearly all AUVs are torpedo-shaped to minimize power consumption for propulsion and maximize battery life and mission duration. This torpedo shape minimizes the ship's resistance in the water.
Increasing use of UUVs for Oceanographic Research is Boosting the Market Growth
In terms of application, the market is segmented into search & salvage operations, archeological & exploration, oceanography, environmental & meteorological research, oil & gas and naval & coastal defense. Naval and coastal defense segments hold dominant position in the market due to huge use of UUVs by defense application for Undersea Reconnaissance, Mine Detection and Clearance and Anti-Submarine Warfare.
For instance, in January 2023, Undersea warfare experts from the U.S. Navy awarded contracts to Penn State University for guidance, navigation and propulsion, as well as materials for future UUU vehicles (UAVs) for a wide range of search and rescue and offensive missions, totaling over USD 1.8 billion.
Oceanographic research is the fastest growing segment due to the growing demand and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for a variety of oceanographic applications, including current and temperature monitoring, ocean bottom mapping, and hydrothermal vent identification.
Increase in Demand for Large Vehicles Due to Growing Purchasing Power
Based on operational range type, the market is divided into large vehicles (depth more than 1000m), medium vehicles (100m to 1000m), and shallow vehicles (depth up to 100m). The large vehicle segment holds the largest market share. The large vehicle segment held the largest market share due to the consumers’ increasing purchasing power and rising use of water column features, monitoring. These vehicles are also capable of performing operations in bottom zones of water.
For instance, in February 2020, General Dynamics offered five new Black Pearl UAVs. Two side scan sonars with improved stern and bow sections and spare parts were also delivered. The Black Pearl UUV supports Navy research programs in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasures.
The medium vehicle segment is the fastest growing segment. The increasing demand for these types of UUVs in commercial applications, such as offshore drilling, seafloor surveying & mapping, and pipeline inspection is driving the segment's growth.
Product to Find Robust Demand in Commercial Sector with Rising Offshore Applications
Based on end user, the market is divided into research institutes, commercial, government, defense/homeland security, and others. The commercial segment holds the largest market share. The segment’s growth is driven by the increasing demand for UUVs in commercial applications, such as offshore drilling, seafloor surveying & mapping, and pipeline inspection. Additionally, underwater drones can now operate at greater depths and have much higher resolution cameras, more sensitive sonar, and more powerful manipulator arms. This comprehensive technological advancement will drive the growth of the segment.
The defense segment is the fastest growing segment due to growth in the consumers’ purchasing power and increasing use of UUVs by defense forces to counter maritime security threats, such as underwater warfare, seabed mines, and anti-ship & anti-submarine missiles.
For instance, in July 2021, Teledyne Technologies Incorporated announced that its subsidiary, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. was awarded a perpetual quantity/perpetual supply contract for its Littoral Battle-Spatial Sensing Glider (LBS-G) program with a base value of up to USD 27.4 million.
The global market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Rest of the World.
North America Unmanned Underwater Vehicles Market Size, 2022 (USD Billion)
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North America captured the largest share of the global market revenue. During the forecast period, it will maintain its leading position due to the increasing use of remotely operated vehicles in the commercial and defense sectors, and the growing demand for autonomous underwater vehicles for underwater exploration. For instance, in August 2022, Austal U.S.A. announced that it was partnering with California-based Saildrone to build the Saildrone Surveyor, an autonomous "unmanned" surface vehicle in Alabama. The partnership aimed to provide the U.S. Navy and other government agencies with a modern solution for maritime awareness, hydrographic mapping, and other tasks that require continuous, large-scale coverage.
The Asia Pacific unmanned underwater vehicles market will grow significantly during the forecast period. The factor contributing to the regional market’s growth includes increased investments in the defense sector of several countries, such as India, China, Japan, South Korea, and others. Countries have increased their defense budgets and the acquisition of advanced UUVs for naval operations.
Europe is experiencing considerable growth in the global market due to high demand from the region’s defense and commercial sectors. ASV Marine is a fast-growing industry in the U.K. The U.K.'s Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST), an Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) inspired by the innovative BLADERUNNER hull form, has already been tested in the Thames. With research funding from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Portchester-based ASV Ltd. developed MAST to provide test sites for various new technologies.
The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy also announced in May 2021 that it would allocate USD 12.5 million to the marine research program to develop a new autonomous underwater robotic system. The technology is expected to enable autonomous monitoring of deep-sea underwater facilities, significantly reducing the carbon footprint without needing expensive support vessels.
The Rest of the World region is expected to grow marginally due to new procurements. As offshore activities in Brazil's deep water oil production are picking up the pace, the demand for these vehicles will witness significant growth in Latin America during the forecast period. Africa is estimated to grow significantly due to increasing contracts with UUV manufacturers in various countries.
Key Players to Provide Advanced Unmanned Underwater Vehicles
The competitive environment of the ever-evolving market is somewhat consolidated due to the presence of major players, such as Teledyne Technologies Incorporated, L3 Harris Technologies Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Oceaneering International, Inc. These key players are focused on providing advanced and compact unmanned underwater vehicles to track multiple targets simultaneously.
An Infographic Representation of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) Market
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The market report contains an in-depth analysis of the market. It mainly focuses on key aspects, such as major technological advancements, competitive landscape, product types, market players, the impact of COVID-19 on the market, leading technology trends, and product research ideology. The report also provides an overview of current market trends and highlights key industry developments and trends. Apart from the abovementioned factors, the report analyzes the factors influencing the growth of the market during the forecast period.
CAGR 13.5% from 2023 - 2030
Value (USD Billion)
By UUV Type, By Sub-System, By Operational Range Type, By Application, By End User and Region
By UUV Type
By Operational Range Type
By End User
Fortune Business Insights stated that the global market size was valued at USD 3.02 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 8.14 billion by 2030.
Registering a CAGR of 13.5%, the market will exhibit rapid growth during the forecast period.
In terms of application, the oceanography segment is expected to grow at the fastest rate during the forecast period.
Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (U.S.), L3 Harris Technologies Inc. (U.S.), Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.), and Oceaneering International, Inc. (U.S.) are the leading players in the global market.
North America topped the market in terms of share in 2022.
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