Recent developments in Ukraine, where armed unmanned maritime platforms demonstrated their effectiveness, have propelled the unmanned maritime vehicle (UMV) market to new heights.

The UMV market is set to experience remarkable growth in the coming decade, with a projected value of over $3.1bn by 2033, according to GlobalData’s latest report titled ‘Thematic Intelligence: Unmanned Maritime Vehicles.’

Growing demand for UMVs in littoral warfare

The report also highlights the expansion of the unmanned surface vehicle (USV) market, projected to exceed $2.1bn, and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), expected to reach $965m by 2033. The report reveals that the surge in the UMV market is also primarily driven by the growing demand for UMVs in littoral warfare.

Aidan Knight, an analyst from GlobalData’s Aerospace, Defense and Security team, explained, “The significant investment in UMVs can be partially attributed to the recent developments in Ukraine, where armed USV swarms inflicted substantial damage on Russian warships and naval infrastructure.

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The attacks on the port of Sevastopol have underscored the urgency for investment in unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and USV technology to ensure technological parity in future conflicts.”

GlobalData’s report highlights the projected expansion of the USV market from $894m in 2023 to over $2.1bn by 2033. Additionally, expenditures in the UUV market are expected to increase from $379m in 2023 to $965m in 2033.

This growth is propelled by major world powers, including China, India, FranceSouth Korea, and Israel, actively exploring the feasibility of combat-capable extra-large UUVs (XLUUVs) and their potential in naval warfare.

Knight further commented, “The emergence of combat-capable UMV designs reflects the global trend in the defence sector, where unmanned systems are being weaponized across air, land, and naval domains. The cost-to-benefit ratio offered by unmanned platforms compared to conventional manned platforms and unguided munitions is a driving force behind this shift.”

Advancements will open up new applications

Of particular interest are the swarm capabilities of USVs and micro UUVs, as well as the concept of USV motherships. The effectiveness of Low-Cost Unmanned Swarm Technologies (LOCUST) demonstrated during the conflict in Ukraine has sparked interest in applying micro-UUV swarms.

Knight emphasized, “The lack of effective countermeasures against low-cost and expendable unmanned platforms has allowed their proliferation on modern battlefields. The increasing investment, development, and deployment of UMVs in the maritime sector signifies the enormous economic and strategic potential of this technology in the coming decades.”

Various firms have expressed interest in USV carriers or USV motherships, with South Korea recently awarding a contract to Hanwha Ocean to explore the feasibility of such concepts.

In conclusion, Knight stated, “The UMV market is expected to undergo significant development and diversification in the next decade. Advancements in energy management, artificial intelligence, sensor networking, and hull design will open up new applications and avenues for growth.

As AI continues to evolve, the demand for autonomous capabilities in submerged environments will fuel the expansion of the UUV market.”