The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has moved to begin the opening of US airspace to commercial operations with the issuance of the first rules for the operation of commercial drones in national airspace. Over the past several years the FAA has shown increasing flexibility in working to open airspace to UAS.
The Part 107 rules, which went into effect in August 2016, are the latest indication of the new FAA attitude. The rules specify a series of criteria that must be met before small UAS can undertake commercial operations. Small UAS is defined as systems that are 55 pounds and under.
In terms of aerospace, the market for civil UAS promises to be one of the most dynamic growth sectors for the next decade, expanding from a $2.8 billion market in 2017 to more than quadruple to $11.8 billion by 2026. Over the next ten years the market totals almost $74 billion.
Although consumer systems represent about half of the overall market through the decade, the fastest growth comes from commercial systems, which surpass consumer systems in 2024 and continue to widen the lead throughout the rest of the forecast period.
The joint Australian/U.S. Nulka (an aboriginal word meaning “be quick!”) active missile decoy has been produced for most major U.S. Navy warships, integrated into the AN/SLQ-32(V) electronic warfare system. The first installation began in 1994. It has now also been integrated into the SSDS (Ship Self Defense System). Nulka has been installed on the CG-47, DDG-51, FFG-7, LSD-41, and LSD-49 classes, with installation on nine CVNs beginning in FY14. Canada and Australia also operate Nulka. More than 1,000 Nulka decoy payloads have been delivered to the US and Australian Navies.
More than 10,000 AN/APR-39s have been produced over the past 50 years, but production slowed with planned new generations of integrated EW suites for helicopters – last century – including the US Army’s SIRFC and ATIRCM.
The deployment of AH-64A Apaches to Kosovo as early as 1999 showed that Apache pilots “had lost confidence” in the APR-39. The Apaches never went into battle, in large part due to the perceived inadequacy of the ECM suite. Again in 2001 in Afghanistan, Army pilots expressed little faith in the APR-39. The Army anxiously awaited the next generation of helicopter EW.
Electro-optical and infrared sensors (EO/IR) have been in service with European navies for many years. Newer systems combine better sensors with primary tracking and fire control on small ships. But the US Navy was late getting into the market (aside from submarine systems), and only ramped up buys after September 11, 2001. The market for systems for smaller ships and boats was initially cornered by FLIR Systems, Inc. (FSI), and these systems are treated in a separate report (see FLIR Systems, Inc. Naval EO/IR Sensors – also updated this month).
Teal Group’s most recent analysis of Future Naval Ship EO/IR Sensor Systems covers naval EO/IR systems at the sophistication level (and expense) of the Mk 46/Mk 20 or greater. This is a very different market from the FLIR Systems, Inc. (FSI) SeaFLIR and other simple FLIR balls, and indeed, the US Navy’s earlier Shipboard Protection System (SPS), though now cancelled, was developed as a parallel situational awareness system for naval ships – in addition to the EOSS. Our forecast may prove conservative, or else future developments to simpler SPS systems could eventually replace the higher-end EOSS-type gun systems. The US Navy’s future plans are currently unclear, and international navies have typically bought the more prolific European naval EO/IR systems.
The AN/BVS-1(V) Photonics Mast is a submarine non-hull penetrating multi-sensor periscope providing all-weather visual, IR, and TV imaging for data collection and image enhancement. It was developed by Kollmorgen (now L-3 KEO) for the Virginia (SSN-774) class submarine, with production beginning in 2000.
In the mid-2000s, Lockheed Martin resurrected its 1990s-era AN/AAS-42(V) IRST (Infrared Search and Track) system from the US Navy F-14D Tomcat fighter, initially for South Korea and Singapore’s new F-15Ks and F-15SGs, as part of their Sniper/Tiger Eyes/IRST suite. More recently, Saudi Arabia also bought an upgraded AAS-42 system for their new F-15SA and F-15SA conversion aircraft, as part of their Sniper ATP/LANTIRN ER/IRST suite.