The global UAS traffic management (UTM) market during 2023-2027 will be worth USD2.6 billion, with annual expenditure rising from USD263 million in 2023 to USD827 million in 2027, according to the latest edition of Unmanned Airspace’s The Market for UAV Traffic Management Services – 2023-2027. This is a considerable increase to Unmanned Airspace’ s previous forecast of USD1,999 million, for the years 2022-2026, published in July 2022.
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“The commercialisation phase of the industry will, we predict, start in earnest in 2024 and in the early years of its development, to 2027, around 54 per cent of the overall market value will be derived from building the infrastructure and systems deployment,” said the report’s author Philip Butterworth-Hayes.
Just a handful of national and local UTM development programmes were announced during 2022. The market has been pegged back by a combination of COVID pandemic management/recovery – which has meant air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have been focused on providing essential air traffic management services rather than investing in future UTM programmes – and uncertainties over the granular details of UTM service provision regulation. At the start of 2023 these obstacles were disappearing with the return to more stable traffic and income levels and the arrival of new regulations – in particular, EASA’s December 2022 publication of its first set of Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material (AMC/GM) to support the harmonised, safe and efficient implementation of U-space across the European Union.
This suggests that 2023 will start a new era of expenditure in UTM infrastructure by governments, confirmed by the publication in late 2022 of a Eurocontrol report on U-space implementation in Europe – the largest regional market for UTM services – which suggested that by 2025, 76 per cent of European states will have national drone registration systems in place and 41 per cent will have finalised their network remote identification services, based on Member State implementation plans.
“Pent-up demand for BVLOS drone services and the development of UTM ecosystems in cities and ports from 2024 will mean that, from a standing start, the UTM sector is likely to develop rapidly,” said Philip Butterworth-Hayes. “Although there are considerable uncertainties still in the revenue model for UTM service provision it is becoming clear that UTM service providers are becoming increasingly creative in finding routes to market, developing commercial relationships with drone operators to support BVLOS flights, cities and even local authority organisations, especially in the USA.”
“It is also likely that the strict delineations between ATM and airborne services in the commercial aviation world used to ensure safe separations between aircraft will be more informally organised in the UTM space,” said Butterworth-Hayes, “where a number of industry-derived detect-and-avoid regulated and unregulated systems will be employed at a local level to ensure safe separations between drone operators and the current general aviation airspace users. How this will work in practice is still one the great unknowns.”
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