The global drone arms race shows no signs of slowing down. As nation after nation invests in drone technology in order to keep up with the latest developments from their rivals, we are only seeing an expansion of new technologies that all but ensure conflict across the globe will continue. In fact, the U.S. has openly admitted that they fully expect ALL nations to have armed drones within 10 years.
The latest technology includes laser equipped autonomous drones, which are expected to arrive within two years. This, naturally has sparked the development of anti-drone technology that introduces electronic warfare as a countermeasure. But, staying a step ahead, drone invisibility cloaks are rapidly approaching reality. See how this goes?
So how good are times if you are in the war business? IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review just released a report detailing the burgeoning market for unmanned aerial systems in which they cite a 5.5% per year expansion that will make drones a $10 billion business by 2024, ensuring that “Unmanned systems are here to stay,” according to Jane’s analyst Derrick Maple. The Jane’s report also highlights how the race continues to materialize, who is driving it and the final direction it is expected to go. My emphasis added:
Israel was the top exporter of UAVs last year, but is set to be overtaken by the United States through sales of General Atomics Predator series and Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, said the report.
Western Europe is forecast to reach $1.3 billion in sales by 2024 as it seeks to reduce its reliance on US and Israeli imports, it added.
However, it also faces competition from China, Russia, India, South Korea and Japan—whose combined sales are predicted to reach $3.4 billion by 2024.
“Operators are now moving to expand their mission sets beyond visual surveillance and reconnaissance, and are introducing sophisticated intelligence and electronic warfare systems, as well as a wider range of munitions,” said Huw Williams, unmanned systems editor for IHS Jane’s.
“As technology matures, we are set to see Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) come in to service,” he added.
“These will feature ‘stealthy’ characteristics and advanced payloads and weaponry. They will operate alongside manned aircraft and eventually even replace them in many roles.”
Drones were used extensively by the US military during its operations in Afghanistan, but have since been increasingly used in civil applications.
You’ll notice that defense contractor General Atomics is mentioned at the outset to be one of the leading drone suppliers in the future of warfare. In case anyone might think this has happened organically, here is a video from that company which was released in 2012. Knowing that they are more than happy for conflict to continue everywhere, here is the world they envisioned back in 2012; it begins in the Operations Center 2012 and moves forward to 2017. Things appear to be shaping up nicely for them … not so much for the rest of us.