Solar Powered Drones Market size is poised to amass substantial gains over 2021-2027, as a result of rapid developments in solar power technology and favorable shift towards using photovoltaic technology to power drones. Furthermore, the emergence of solar-powered UAVs as an affordable alternative to satellite technology will also propel the industry demand over the forthcoming years. BAE Systems, for example, unveiled PHASA-35, its solar-powered drone, designed for use as a substitute to low Earth orbit satellites in various applications such as troop movement monitoring and environmental surveillance. Solar powered UAVs capture solar energy that reaches the aircraft during daylight, using solar cells and panels installed onboard, which is then used to propel the aircraft or to recharge the onboard battery.
Rapid introduction of solar panel powered drones to execute numerous activities, including Internet service delivery or real-time image transmission, will foster the solar powered drones market trends. In 2020, Alphabet and SoftBank made flying cell towers a reality by delivering a stable LTE connection from an autonomous solar-powered drone, at a height of 62,000 feet in the stratosphere. In addition, the rising usage of solar-powered military drones for the evaluation of combat situations and enemy territories will further enhance the industry outlook over the coming years.
With regards to application, the global solar powered drones market share from the agriculture segment will exhibit a substantial growth rate through 2027. This is driven by the growing acceptance of drone technology by farmers to automate crop spraying, reduce infestation rate, and improve the yield estimation of crops. Drones also provide lower analysis costs as compared to satellite imagery, which will further boost the adoption of the technology in agricultural applications over the estimated timeline.
On the regional front, the Asia Pacific is set to hold a considerable share of the solar powered drones market by 2027. This is attributable to the growing emphasis on the deployment of renewable energy as a primary power source across the region. Additionally, the increased production of drones and solar PV in countries like China and Japan will further bolster regional market expansion in the years ahead.
Key players operating in the major solar powered drones industry include Atlantik Solar, Bye Engineering, Lockheed Martin (Hale-D), AeroVironment, Inc., Ascenta (Facebook), Titan Aerospace (Google), Boeing Phantom Works, QinetiQ, and Airbus, among others. These companies are incorporating strategies such as business expansions and collaborations to sustain their strong share in the global market. For example, in October 2020, HAPSMobile, a joint venture between AeroVironment and SoftBank, announced the delivery of broadband internet access during the test flight of its solar-powered drone, Sunglider in the stratosphere. This solar-powered UAV was also able to host video calls through the usage of mobile network equipment from Loon, Alphabet’s balloon-based broadband company.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has rapidly become a global threat, significant enough to make various countries prioritize their budgets to address health crises over military threats. In Europe, for instance, military expenditure was expected to decline considerably due to the global economic challenges triggered by the pandemic according to the CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies). Since drones are used extensively for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency applications for defense, these challenges could impede solar powered drones industry growth from the military segment to a certain extent.
However, the burgeoning adoption of solar-powered drones for package deliveries to reduce contact during the pandemic may provide an opportunity for the industry to regain traction. For example, in August 2021, NU1 introduced drobo, a medical product delivery robot prototype equipped with a solar-powered drone, to deliver medical products with instructions, as well as perform seamless inspections for patients, including blood oxygen and COVID-19 tests.