The global unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) market generated ~$4 billion revenue in 2020. The major factors behind the growth of the market are the modernization of underwater inspection techniques, rising demand for maritime security, and increasing government investments in UUVs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturing facilities, including those of UUVs, were affected owing to the lockdowns across the world. As a result, product sales witnessed a negative impact in the short run (till the third quarter of 2020), thus leading to a reduction in the market growth rate. However, the demand for UUVs resurged after the resumption of manufacturing operations, lifting of lockdowns, and streamlining of imports and exports.
The unmanned underwater vehicles market is categorized into remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), on the basis of type. Among these, the AUV category dominated the market during the historical period (2015–2020), and it is expected to retain its dominance during the forecast period. This is mainly because the oil and gas industry creates detailed maps of the seafloor with the help of UUVs, before building the subsea infrastructure. This allows for the cost-effective and easy installation of pipelines and other systems, with minimal environmental impact.
Furthermore, the UUVs market is categorized into commercial, defense, scientific research, and others, on the basis of application. Out of these, the commercial category is expected to witness the fastest growth during the forecast period. This would primarily be because remote-controlled vehicles are used for several commercial applications, such as deep surveys and seabed mapping, offshore drilling, pipelining, and cabling.
Geographically, North America was the largest contributor to the unmanned underwater vehicles market in 2020. This can be mainly ascribed to the early adoption of advanced technologies and rising defense budget, especially in the U.S. Besides, the growing adoption of UUVs by naval forces for maritime defense and surveillance purposes is a major factor helping the UUVs market advance in the region. UUVs are also used for port and harbor security, detection and disposal of explosives, mine hunting, and several military applications.
Players in the UUVs market are involved in partnerships and seeking development contracts to gain a significant position. For instance, in February 2020, Lockheed Martin Corporation was granted a $12.3-million contract by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for the development and demonstration of a new series of extra-large UUVs for the DARPA. Under the program, the proposed UUVs would be prepared to do long-duration, long-term missions while conveying a substantially large payload, to lessen dependence on vessels of opportunity and different types of logistical technologies in forward-working conditions.
Similarly, in December 2019, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) awarded contract to Saab AB for self-propelled naval mine development. The new naval mine will be based on autonomous underwater vehicle (UAV) technology.
The major players operating in the global unmanned underwater vehicles market include Lockheed Martin Corporation, Kongsberg Gruppen, Teledyne Technologies Inc., Oceaneering International Inc., Subsea 7 S.A., Saab AB, The Boeing Company, Fugro, and Oceanserver Technology Inc.