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Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) Market Size, Share and COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Type (Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)), By Application (Commercial Exploration, Scientific Research, Defense), By Product Type (Small Vehicle, High-Capacity Electric Vehicle, Work-Class Vehicle), By Propulsion System (Electric System, Mechanical System), By Payload (Camera, Sensors), and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028

Region : Global | Format: PDF | Report ID: FBI102527



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The global unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) market size was USD 2,960.8 million in 2020. The global impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and staggering, with clear UUVs witnessing a negative demand shock across all regions amid the pandemic. Based on our analysis, the global market will exhibit a huge decline of -8.52% in 2020. The market is projected to grow from USD 3,057.0 million in 2021 to USD 9,502.7 million in 2028 at a CAGR of 17.59% in the 2021-2028 period. The sudden rise in CAGR is attributable to this market’s demand and growth, returning to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic is over.


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An unmanned underwater vehicle is a robotic system that can be operated under seawater without human intervention. UUV is widely used in ocean exploration works, several underwater applications such as scientific research, commercial, and security.  The rise in demand for energy has propelled the growth of the oil & gas industry in the past few years. The major applications of these vehicles are maritime surveillance, underwater search and survey, communication, navigation, and others.

In February 2020, Sonardyne International, a technology provider for UUVs and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) had acquired 2G Robotics Inc., the underwater imaging and Inspection company. 2G Robotics has a well-developed product and service lines and research team that helps Sonardyne to grow its business in this market.

Oil & Gas Industry to Face Unprecedented Challenges Amid COVID 19 Pandemic

Since the COVID-19 virus outbreak in December 2019, the disease has spread to almost 200+ countries worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic. The global impact of the COVID-19 has started to be seen and will harshly impact the market by 2021.

  • The global oil industry has been impacted due to contracted oil & gas demand in numerous countries. The oil demand is projected to fall 9.3 mb/d year-on-year in 2020 and 2021, which in turn impacted the demand for UUV for oil & gas industry operations.

  • According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global maritime transport has plunged by 4.1% in 2020 due to unexpected disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The disruption mainly hampered the supply chain, shipping network, trade volumes, and port due to less business. Most of the maritime operations depend on the data collected through such unmanned vehicles but due to such issues related to supply chain, and delayed deliveries, this hampers the growth of the market.


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Development of Underwater Artificial Intelligence Systems for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Enhance Overall Performance of Operation

The introduction of artificial intelligence in the autonomous underwater vehicle will create lucrative opportunities for manufacturers during the forecast period. Underwater artificial intelligence enables unmanned devices to map sea beds and carry out underwater infrastructure repair that is hazardous for human technicians. The introduction of underwater artificial intelligence and 3D computer imaging in the subaquatic robotics sector reduces the cost of producing offshore renewable energies.

Russian Navy has developed a nuclear-capable underwater drone, Poseidon drone under project 09852, a special purpose nuclear submarine Belgorod. The Poseidon is also called an autonomous underwater drone and autonomous nuclear torpedo. The Russian Navy has planned to launch a nuclear submarine armed with the UUV in 2020. The Belgorod and Khabarovsk are expected to carry six Poseidon drones in each nuclear power submarine.


Growing Deep-Water Oil & Gas Production Propels the Market Growth

In 2019, key companies such as Shell, Chevron, Repsol, and Equinor. witnessed a new oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell has been successful in deep-water well-exploration projects, which discovered oil wells of around 400 feet deep. The new exploration project is expected to produce more than 900,000 barrels of oil by 2020. Growing demand for energy resources will fuel deep-sea exploration and further boost demand for remotely operated vehicles.

The oil & gas industry will play an important role in the future. According to DNV GL, a technical advisor to the oil & gas industry, Energy Transition Outlook 2017, is forecast to account for over 44% share of the world’s primary energy supply in 2050. The oil & gas industry widely used UUVs for detailed study to map the seafloor before starting subsea infrastructure projects. These unmanned vehicles are also used in several commercial applications such as seafloor mapping or seabed imaging and pipeline disruption study in the sea environment.

Growing Concerns over Maritime Security and Naval Cross Border Threats to Drive Market

Maritime piracy and maritime terrorisms are major concerns and threats to global shipping, imposing substantial human life economic costs. Furthermore, port security, drug smuggling via sea and migrant smuggling are threats to maritime security. The increasing use of UUVS to overcome such threats and improve maritime security through ISR operations is expected to drive market growth.

Unmanned underwater vehicles are also called underwater drones, unmanned submarines, and underwater robots. This technology now becomes a mainstream vehicle for Military, Navy, and coastal security forces, especially in subsea operations. The U.S. Navy extensively uses such vehicles for key applications such as intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR), mine countermeasures (MCM), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and Inspection/Identification (ID).

The U.S. Navy is requesting around USD 579.9 million for R&D funding in FY2021. The Navy has accelerated its acquisition strategies for the faster purchase of underwater vehicles to counter China's major attacks. The growing demand for these unmanned underwater vehicles in counties such as the U.S, Canada, and China is projected to boost the market during the forecast period.


Lack of Effective Communication System and High Cost of Laser Communication System May Hamper the Market Growth

The unmanned underwater vehicle is an advanced naval technology loaded with high-tech components that can be operated without human intervention for numerous underwater applications worldwide. The UUV is loaded with sensors and navigation systems connected through the signal transmission for real-time communication, control speed, direction, and data gathering.

Communication and signal transmission is one of unmanned underwater vehicle technology's major problems due to the distortion of the information under the water. The communication establishment and uses are based on acoustic wave transmission, which can be delayed up to 2 seconds owing to slow movement. Several other factors hamper signal transmission due to environmental conditions such as reflection, refraction, and signal absorption. Several manufacturers use laser communication technology, which is a highly expensive technology, further increasing the final product cost.


By Type Analysis

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Segment to Gain Momentum during the Forecast Period

Based on the type, the market is segmented into a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle. The remotely operated vehicle segment holds the highest unmanned underwater vehicles market share. The ROVs are mostly used for critical missions and are best suited for rough and unpredictable terrains.

The autonomous underwater segment will show significant growth during the forecast period. Manufacturers are focusing on developing new AUVs to increase vehicles' efficiency and minimize human interference.

ECA Group developed a new generation of mid-size AUV, A18-M. The AUV is capable of mine countermeasures (MCM) missions that can operate autonomously in the mines' close vicinity by keeping crew out of the danger zone.

By Application Analysis

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Increasing Use of UUVs for Naval Operations in the Defense Sector Will Drive the Growth of the Market

Based on the application, the market is classified into scientific research, defense, commercial exploration, and miscellaneous. The defense segment holds the highest market share and is predicted to be the leading market segment during the forecast period. This growth is due to the rising use of the unmanned underwater vehicles by the defense forces to encounter maritime security threats such as submarine warfare, seabed mines, and anti-ship & anti-submarine missiles, and others.

Furthermore, the manufacturers operating in this market focus on developing advanced vehicles for critical missions. The advanced vehicles are integrated with enhanced ISR capabilities and improved sensors highly adopted by the defense forces for naval operations.

The commercial explorations segment will witness significant growth during the forecast period. The development is due to the increasing demand for UUVs in commercial applications such as offshore drilling, pipeline inspection, surveys, and seabed mapping.

By Product Type Analysis

Increasing demand for Heavy Work-Class UUVs for Deep Water Surveys to Propel the Market Growth

By product type, the market is classified into small vehicle, high-capacity electric vehicle, work-class vehicles, and heavy work-class vehicles. The small vehicle segment will witness significant growth during the forecast period due to increased use in applications for observations of water column properties, monitoring, and benthic zones. The high capacity electric vehicles are used for deep-water surveys.

The heavy work class vehicles are equipped with a wide range of sensors, communication systems, and navigation & positioning systems. These heavy work vehicles are useful in in-depth water surveys and extreme lifting with improved efficiency and decreased downtime. Furthermore, significant growth in navy budgets to meet pollution norms and greener technologies, an increasing number of projects related to oceanography and research drives the electric vehicle work class underwater vehicle segment.

By Propulsion System Analysis

Introduction of Advanced Mechanical System Drive the Market Growth Rates

By propulsion system, the market is divided into electric systems, mechanical systems, and hybrid systems. The electric systems segment will show significant growth in the unmanned underwater vehicles market during the forecast period. Autonomous underwater vehicles can operate without a complex support system. The AUVs carry their energy source and do not need external power.

The mechanical systems segment also shows remarkable growth as the mechanical system includes designing, prototyping, and manufacturing various AUV components. The major mechanical features include actuation for the payloads, pressure hulls, and structural frame of AUV. The increasing demand for AUVs will, in turn, create demand for mechanical systems.

By Payload Analysis

Growing Use of Advanced Cameras and Sensors to Dive the Market Growth

By payload, the market is segmented into the camera, sensors, inertial navigation systems, and others. The camera segment is anticipated to showcase remarkable growth during 2021-2028. The growing adoption of high-resolution cameras is the most widely used payload in UUVs that drives the segment's growth.

The sensors segment will witness significant growth during the forecast period. The growth is attributable to the growing use of sensors in the defense sector to map, scan, and detect objects. Moreover, the sensors are also used in the commercial sector to measure the concentration of elements and compounds and detect microscopic life.


North America Unmanned Underwater Vehicles Market Size, 2020 (USD Million)

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The market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. North America holds the highest market share in the global market, and the United States is the largest producer, operator, and exporter of such vehicles globally. The growing use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in commercial and defense sectors is anticipated to drive the ROVs market's growth in North America. The growing use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for carrying deep-water surveys in oil & gas production propels the region's market growth.

Asia Pacific is expected to witness significant unmanned underwater vehicles market growth during the forecast period. The growth is attributable to the increasing investments in the defense sector from several countries such as India, China, Japan, South Korea, and others. The countries have increased their defense budgets and procurement of advanced UUVs for naval operations.

In Europe, the UUV market will witness moderate growth due to the presence of key players such as KONGSBERG, Saab AB, and others. The Middle East will witness moderate growth during the forecast period. This growth is due to the increasing adoption of AUVs and ROVs from several Middle Eastern countries for naval operations.

Latin America will witness significant growth during the forecast period on account of the growing offshore activities in deep-water oil production in Brazil. Africa is estimated to show significant growth owing to increasing contracts with UUV OEMs from different countries.

In February 2020, Fugro signed a contract with Aker Energy for geotechnical and geophysical survey services in relation to the Pecan field, offshore Ghana. Under the agreement, geophysical survey data was acquired using the Fugro searcher and Fugro’s deep-water AUVs fleet.


Key Players to Focus on Business Expansion by Securing Contracts with Defense Forces

The UUV manufacturers are majorly focusing on business expansion through contracts with defense forces of different countries. In October 2020, General Dynamics Corporation was awarded a contract worth USD 13.5 million by the U.S. Navy for development, test, engineering support, and the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure (SMCM) Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV).

Furthermore, In July 2020, Virginia Tech, Center for Marine Autonomy and Robotics entered into a partnership with Dive Technologies to launch a next-generation autonomous underwater vehicle with an innovative design and state-of-the-art control, software, and autonomy systems.



  • February 2020 – Lockheed Martin Corporation signed a contract worth USD 12.3 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research and develop and demonstrate extra-large unmanned undersea vehicles.

  • April 2020- Fugro has signed long-term agreement with Global Marine Group (GMG) to provide two ROVs from FCV600 models and a survey support package for GMG’s new vessel, the Normand Clipper.


An Infographic Representation of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) Market

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The UUV market report provides an in-depth industry analysis of the market. It majorly focuses on key aspects such as leading market players, COVID-19 impact on the market, leading technological trends, and the product's research ideology. The report also offers insights into the current market trends and highlights key industry developments & trends. In addition to the aforesaid factors, the report analyzes factors that will contribute towards the growth of the market during the forecast period.

Report Scope & Segmentation



Study Period


Base Year


Forecast Period


Historical Period



  Value (USD Million)


By Type

  • Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)

By Application

  • Commercial Exploration

  • Scientific Research

  • Defense

  • Miscellaneous

By Product Type

  • Small Vehicle

  • High-Capacity Electric Vehicle

  • Work Class Vehicle

  • Heavy Work Class Vehicle

By Propulsion System

  • Electric System

  • Mechanical System

  • Hybrid System

By Payload

  • Camera

  • Sensors

  • Inertial Navigation Systems

  • Others

By Geography

  • North America (The U.S. and Canada)

  • Europe (The U.K., Germany, France, Russia, Rest of Europe)

  • Asia Pacific (Japan, China, India, Australia, and Rest of Asia Pacific)

  • The Middle East (The UAE, Israel, Turkey, Rest of the Middle East)

  • Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, and Rest of Latin America)

  • Africa (South Africa, Nigeria, and Rest of Africa)

Frequently Asked Questions

Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was USD 2,960.8 million in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 9,502.7 million by 2028.

In 2020, the North American market stood at USD 947.4 million.

Growing at a CAGR of 17.59%, the market will exhibit significant growth during the forecast period (2021-2028).

The autonomous underwater vehicle is expected to be the leading segment in this market during the forecast period.

Increasing deep-water offshore oil & gas production is propelling the growth of the market.

General Dynamics Corporation, Boeing, Fugro, Lockheed Martin Corporation, L3Harris Technologies, Inc., KONGSBERG, Saab AB, Teledyne Technologies Incorporated are the major players in the global market.

North America dominated the market share in 2020.

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