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Sensors and cameras leading drones and robots revolution

02 Apr 2016

Analyst Yole says the already-robust $350m sensors for drones and robots market will double by 2021.

The sensors for drones and robots market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.4% between 2015 and 2021, reaching a total revenue of US$ 709 million by 2021, according to a new market report from Yole Développement (Yole). The report, entitled Sensors for Drones and Robots: Market Opportunities and Technology Revolution, reveals that the market is clearly being driven by full applications range of available technologies.

“Defense and manufacturing have been the traditional drones and robot markets,” explained Pierre Cambou, Activity Leader, Imaging at Yole. “Within five years, the emerging robotic market segments will grow from 14% to 28% of the global drones and robots market share.” Yole predicts that these new markets will represent double the share of the current defense market and half the share of today’s industrial market.

Yole’s analysis identifies the overall drones and robots applications with a market and technology approach; this report lists the key players for each application and their market positioning. The technology for drones and robots is also well detailed. The company is presenting “a deep analysis of sensor forecasts per application and technology, the related market drivers and a dedicated roadmap” (see third graphic, below). Currently, the two largest markets for drones and robots are defense and industrial, both of which owe much to the global policies of the United States and China.

Military share reduction

“Through our research, we’ve identified at least ten new applications for which drones and robots that will generate more than $1 billion in revenue per year”, added Cambou. “As numerous new applications covering the full market spectrum emerge, including consumer drones, autonomous vehicles, hospitality robots, exoskeletons, and telepresence, the drones and robots markets will become less military and manufacturing-oriented.” These new applications, which are expected to enjoy a compound growth rate of 40% and above over the next five years, are all detailed in the full report.

For each market, a huge diversity of robots and applications are being explored by numerous emerging players. Yole comments that there is a complexity inherent to early-stage markets, where a diversity of competing technologies can coexist.

Cambou commented, “Sensors, which are key enablers for the emerging robotics revolution, will play a role in all applications. Indeed a robotic device is a closed loop of actuation, computation, and perception or sensing. The previous two digital and industrial revolutions ushered in the first two capabilities, with sensing the only one still outstanding.”

Mobile and automotive markets have been instrumental in the maturation of acoustic, optical, and positional sensors, while new sensor categories like touch, microwave, and environmental will serve drones and robots.

Optical systems as enablers

Dr Eric Mounier, Senior Technology & Market Analyst at Yole, commented, “Optical sensors, in particular visible cameras, lidar, and 3D cameras, are the major enablers,” asserts. And he adds: “Acoustic and positional sensors will also enjoy double-digit growth rates for drones and robots applications.”

The Sensors for drones and robots report highlights the extremely diverse sensor revenue distribution amongst the markets Yole analyzed. From consumer, commercial, and transport to medical, security, industrial, and defense, every market will generate sensor revenue, they say. “Marketing-wise, this is especially beneficial to smaller companies focused on a few specific niches. The drones and robots markets are the perfect target for emerging sensing technologies,” Yole comments.

Among the numerous applications relevant to sensors for drones and robots, Yole suggest there is not yet a clear case for cheap volume-oriented sensors versus high-end expensive ones: “The drones and robots markets are still emerging, and first must prove their benefit. In this context they are particularly price-conscious at the beginning of product expansion.”

By Yole’s observation, once they have proven themselves the unit average selling price will stop shrinking and start rising again. Performance at low cost is an enabler, but cost for performance is a driving force. This is currently evident in the consumer drone space, along with vacuum cleaner robots and hospitality robots. In the future, we expect to see this trend across the board.

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