This quarter exhibited the strong continuing transition of Unmanned Maritime Systems from defense to commercial, mirroring the aerial drones sector of 2013–2014. The UMS sector is on a continuing high growth curve expected to last at least a few more years.
The first observation is that Canada, Norway, the UK, and Denmark have taken steps this quarter to develop regulatory and safety environments for Unmanned Maritime Systems to flourish. From CA $950M being earmarked by Canada alone, to the UK registering the first vessel flag to a USV; we see that money, regulations and technical innovation are aligning for success.
Secondly, four new Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, and eight (!) new Unmanned Surface Vehicles have been announced in this quarter alone. This is more than the market can absorb today, and it shows an unbridled optimism in the market. Less than half of those 12 new vehicles are new models from existing UMS manufacturers.
The autonomous shipping vessel technology now appears to be a race: big players are coming in, and we should expect to see an augmentation of automated navigation and pilot assistance. This demonstrates a greater effectiveness of the technology and hopefully costs efficiencies as well. Though few countries yet recognize this, port cargo automation is critical since automation and autonomy must occur together in multiple aspects of the marine shipping sector.
More USV end-users for security are being introduced — another meaningful event for autonomous marine systems and good news since the security uses of USV have been been previously disappointing compared to its potential. On the underwater side, there is decent money going to research and development, which means AUVs will continue to have new capabilities and enable new uses into the 2020s.
UVSC’s professional insight for each one of the 50 market updates at http://unmannedmaritime.com