Underwater drones are unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) that are gathering pace in the application areas of robotics engineering. Underwater drones have a wide range of applications in various sectors including defense, law enforcement and public safety, marine, and information and communication technologies (ICT). Sometimes known as remotely-operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), the technologies used in UUVs may include cameras, sensors, and lasers, and these are typically operated using mobile devices. Their use is getting popular in diverse areas such as marine inspection and research, port security, aquaculture, potable water management, offshore drilling, and pipeline inspection and maintenance. The growing use of consumer drones for underwater applications is opening up promising avenues in undersea cinematography and fishing.
Global Underwater Drones Market: Key Trends
The burgeoning application of consumer drones for a variety of underwater operation and inspection activities and the growing demand for unmanned underwater vehicles in marine research are some of the key trends boosting the underwater drones market. There is a growing demand for UUV among defense and law enforcement agencies for surveillance. This has stimulated substantial research and development funding in developed nations, thereby catalyzing the underwater drones market. The limited practical applications of underwater drones, primarily due to high cost and technological constraints with tethering, is a key factor likely to hinder the market growth to an extent. Constant improvements in the control systems of UUVs and recent advancements in the camera technology are expected to open up exciting opportunities in the market.
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Global Underwater Drones Market: Market Potential
The rising popularity of ROVs to be equipped with virtual reality technologies for a better immersive experiences below ocean and sea has opened up lucrative growth avenues in the underwater drones market. Blueye Robotics, a Norwegian technology start-up, in June 2017, has launched a remotely-operated underwater vehicle, called the Blueye Pioneer drone. The Pioneer drone can made to go to a depth of 450 feet and take 1080p videos, record, and stream them at a pace of 30 frames/seconds. Equipped with LED lights, they can even work even in murky water.
The Pioneer drone is considered useful in various underwater application such as inspecting underwater sea cables and checking offshore wind farms. In addition, it can be remotely controlled using user-friendly navigation controls, such as videogame console controller, or through a smartphone. The high-technology drone, believes Blueye Robotics, is a significant technological advancement as it can be combined with virtual reality headsets. The company hopes to ship the device in 2018 for an estimated price of US$3550.
In another recent development, PowerVision Robot Corporation, a pioneer in developing underwater drones, has launched PowerEye in January 2017. It is a tethered drone fitted with a sonar system that can be descended to a depth of 30 meters to detect fish up to more 40 meters. The drone has gained popularity with fishing enthusiasts and serious hobbyists alike.
Global Underwater Drones Market: Regional Outlook
Geographically, North America is a prominent market for underwater drones. The growth of the regional market is driven by substantial spending by the defense in advanced nations and the burgeoning off-shore oil drilling activities across several parts of the region. Meanwhile, the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific are expected to offer lucrative growth avenues for players in the underwater drones market. The rising threat of terrorist activities is anticipated to boost these regional markets. In addition, recent advances in oil and gas exploration activities made in Nigeria is expected to accentuate the South African market for underwater drones.
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Global Underwater Drones Market: Competitive Analysis
In recent years, the technology has garnered substantial interest among several robotics firms focused on developing underwater consumer drones. This has led several emerging players to generate funds using crowdsourcing in order to consolidate their distribution channels and explore new geographic markets. Leading players are also investing substantial amounts in research and development activities in order to gain a competitive edge over others. Key players vying for a significant share in the underwater drones market include Kongsberg Maritime, Oceaneering International Inc., Teledyne Technologies, Subsea 7 S.A, Blueye, and Aquabotix Technology Corporation.
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