Marine drones for surface and underwater operations have quietly advanced, as improving capabilities and new applications have led to a growing market.
In this report, Ed O’Brien gathers exclusive information for RBR Insiders on the size of the market, major providers, and use cases for marine drones. After decades of development for scientific and military use, unmanned systems have rapidly found work inspecting offshore platforms, monitoring ocean conditions, and maintaining harbor facilities.
The global market for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) slowed in the past few years because of a downturn in oil prices, but it could bounce back, say analysts. Still, the market for ROVs and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will grow from $2 billion in 2016 to $9 billion by 2025, experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 18.2%, predicts Transparency Market Research.
Public-private partnerships have been key to the development of marine drones, as governments, enterprises, and academia continue to be important. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is an example in the U.S., and the U.K. is another leader in marine drone development.
Among the advances in autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs), AUVs, ROVs, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are cheaper sensors and more efficient power systems.
For instance, Liquid Robotics uses solar and wind power for propulsion of its Wave Glider.
With machine learning and artificial intelligence, such systems are able to navigate with less manual guidance. A lightening of the cognitive load enables remote pilots to focus on higher-level tasks.
With more sensors and better AI, marine drones can also gather and process more data from their surroundings. Such vessels are often cheaper to operate than sending ships, aircraft, or divers to a location. As with other forms of robotics, the real business value is ultimately in the data delivered as a service from such mobile systems.
In addition, marine drones are increasing in endurance and are beginning to be used in coordination with one another, crewed vessels, and aerial drones for even greater coverage.
For instance, Robotics Business Review named Autonomous Marine Systems the winner of its Pitchfire startup competition at RoboBusiness 2015. Other competitions are also working to encourage marine drone development.
Construction and offshore inspection, repair, and maintenance activities are helping to grow demand for marine drones, said Westwood Global Energy. As with self-driving vehicles, marine drones could also eventually be used for delivery and moving passengers.
From oceanographic research to energy exploration and utility maintenance, marine drones are an example of how automation is continuing to expand and augment human and business capabilities. This report can help existing and new marine drone suppliers and end users get a sense of the global market.