increasing numbers of drone

The SESAR Joint Undertaking has developed insights related to the use of 'drones' which refers to
unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV); this includes, as a subset,
remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).
Unmanned aerial system (UAS), of which the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the airborne
component, comprising two fundamental types: Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), a class of
UAS which has a ‘pilot’ operating the Remotely-Piloted Aircraft (RPA) from a Ground-Control Station
(GCS); and UAS with no remote pilot, or autonomous air vehicles. In this document, the term ‘drone’,
essentially a layman’s term, refers to all types of UAS.
This forecast extends to 2050 and, as such, includes a number of assumptions that carry uncertainty.
As a result of the inherent uncertainty, all figures have been rounded and should be interpreted in
terms of their order of magnitude. Additionally, the forecast has been developed as a starting point
for Europe on the topic and is not expected to be exhaustive of all potential forms of drones. Special
attention was paid to the operation of drones within European skies and, as a result, missions and
drone types that are designed for use inside industrial and residential facilities are not forecasted.
Additionally, all monetary figures are nominal and do not include adjustments for the effects of
inflation. All economic indicators and drone unit totals indicated in this report are reflective of
European demand and do not reflect potential export into the broader global marketplace.
In order to increase the validity of assumptions used in developing the forecast, a number of
stakeholder discussions and workshops have been conducted. Developers of drone technologies,
operators that manage drones in bringing services to businesses and consumers, policy makers
involved with the governing regulation of drones and industry leaders across a number of relevant
domains that are anticipated to be end users of drone capabilities were consulted. Additionally,
analysis for the study was supported by The Boston Consulting Group. The study's forecasts do not
represent any specific organization or stakeholder and, instead, represent a set of publically
available facts collected by the study and supported by trends and themes that emerged across the
entire set of experts.
The SESAR Joint Undertaking thanks all those stakeholders that supported the development of this
study, including the OECD for their continued support in regards to the economic impact.

SESAR European Drones Outlook Study / 3 /
Drone market and capabilities expanding rapidly – in Europe and also globally
'Drones' have been instrumental in providing new capabilities for European defence and have
demonstrated significant growth as a consumer leisure product. Drones are offering public safety
and security authorities new capabilities much in the same way they have for the military and are
transforming commercial businesses. A core component to these new capabilities and
transformations is the collection of data from strategic vantage points that have been either
inaccessible or too expensive to be economically viable today. This core area of data processing is
being extended to include the efficient transport of urgently needed goods within a local community
or industrial site with longer term aspirations to transform large commercial vehicles for both cargo
transport and also, someday, passenger transport.
Europe – with a strong mix of leadership in aerospace and defence, innovative forces developing
both drone products and services and industrial leaders finding new ways to impact their businesses
by leveraging the technology – is helping drive what is becoming a global industry. Many of Europe's
Member States have been progressively establishing legislation that extends beyond exemptionbased
protocols to provide drone operators the opportunity to create local operations. As a next
step, EASA has proposed a risk based approach to settle a performance-based framework for
regulation related to drones. This work is nearing completion and could provide scale opportunities
for market players. In addition to these regulation efforts, initial investments are being made into
developing European capabilities, including SESAR, in order to drive forward technology and support
the large array of increasing private investments.
Europe is not alone in its strong efforts to generate value from drones. The United States (US) and
China are two key States that are significantly investing into technology and innovative businesses
that currently exceed the level of total European investments. In particular, the US is the leader in
producing defence drone systems – followed by Israel – and China is the leader in producing leisure
units that tend to be more and more used for professional purposes.
The use of drones in many sectors creates significant benefits that should be
The growing drone marketplace shows significant potential, with European demand suggestive of a
valuation in excess of EUR 10 billion annually, in nominal terms, by 2035 and over EUR 15 billion
annually by 2050. The impact of civil missions by (either for governments or for commercial
businesses) is expected to generate the majority of this value as related services are anticipated to
represent more than EUR 5 billion of annual value by 2035, highlighting their importance within the
marketplace. The other main sectors, defence and leisure, will continue contributing to this
marketplace and remain the largest sources of value in the near-term. Both together represent
nearly EUR 2 billion in annual product-related turnover in Europe over the long term.
SESAR European Drones Outlook Study / 4 /
The development of the civil drone industry is dependent on the ability of drones to operate in
various areas of the airspace, especially at very low levels that today are generally defined as being
below 150 metres. In aggregate, some 7 million consumer leisure drones are expected to be
operating across Europe and a fleet of 400 000 is expected to be used for commercial and
government missions in 2050. Commercial and professional users are expected to demand drones in
both rural and urban settings and will be reliant on beyond visual line of sight capabilities to be
permitted. Examples of some of the most influential missions, in terms of the potential number of
drones and economic impact, include the following:
 Agriculture sector where over 100 000 drones are forecasted to enable precision agriculture
to help drive increased levels of productivity that are required
 Energy sector where close to 10 000 drones limit risk of personnel and infrastructure by
performing preventative maintenance inspections
 Delivery purposes where there is potential for a fleet of nearly 100 000 drones to provide
society with some kind of urgent service capabilities, such as transporting emergency
medical supplies, and “premium” deliveries
 Public safety and security where a forecasted fleet of approximately 50 000 drones would
provide authorities like police and fire forces the means to more efficiently and effectively
locate endangered citizens and assess hazards as they carry out civil protection and
humanitarian missions
Included in this demand are also thousands of new types of aircraft that are expected to impact
more conventional areas of airspace. In the near term, robust certified systems are expected to
support border security, maritime surveillance and other government authority missions. In the
longer term, unmanned larger commercial vehicles are gradually expected with initial versions of
optionally piloted systems estimated for sometime after 2030 – first impacting cargo transport and
then moving slowly towards transport of passengers. The feasibility of such solutions will require
significant societal acceptance as well as a number of critical advancements in technology and
Re-assessment of EU support levels required to fortify Europe's position at global
Unlocking the full potential of the market and maintaining the high standards of safety of EU
aviation will require increased levels of European support. Indeed, the market is likely to be
operated by many firms pursuing multi-national scale and/or conducting cross border missions (e.g.,
border security and maritime surveillance). Setting up a single competitive EU drone market would
improve connectivity, as well as allow economic growth and the creation of jobs. This EU drone
market would also support the EU aviation strategy by embracing a new era of innovation and digital
technologies and helping maintain the high EU safety and security standards. Indeed, support of a
single drone market through the combination of an enabling legal framework and R&D efforts that
foster a myriad of new services has been supported by the EU since 20141

SESAR European Drones Outlook Study / 5 /
Further actions taken at the EU level will need to occur rapidly given the pace of global development
in drones, especially as the US and China are already the leaders in different forms of production and
investing more heavily into scalable capabilities. Much of what still needs to be done include
technology (detect and avoid, datacom), air traffic management, security & cyber reliance along with
the availability of authorised & safe testing environments. As a main finding of the study, and based
on the expectations of the market to unlock demand and global competiveness, these
improvements need to be completed within a window of opportunity limited to the next 5-10 years.
Completion within such a time span requires that an ecosystem is created at an EU level around
both technology and regulation to ensure a proper 'home' for drones that brings all key public and
private stakeholders together. Key stakeholders on the private side will need to incorporate the
talents of leading aviation players together with the variety of new entrants into aviation that
include new ventures and also industrial leaders exploring the impact of drones on their current
EU funding levels into research and development need to be re-assessed to stimulate this emerging
marketplace and establish an EU level ecosystem . An estimated total of at least EUR 200 million in
additional R&D over the next 5-10 years, based on expectations of the market, is required to address
remaining gaps related to Very Low Level (VLL) activities that represent the majority of future drone
operations. This boost in R&D capabilities would complement on-going efforts for the integration of
drones into controlled airspace. Priorities related to the successful integration into controlled
airspace continue, as previously forecasted in the SESAR RPAS Definition Phase, to require close to
EUR 150 million over the next 5-10 years, of which the SESAR 2020 programme is presently
addressing EUR 40 million due to budget constraints.
Required additional investments should be supported by a mix of both public and private
stakeholders reinforcing the importance of an EU level ecosystem for R&D. This same mix of
stakeholders will also be needed to ensure fast implementation of comprehensive regulation. Speed
will be essential for Europe to obtain a global leadership position, especially as the value in services
remains in the early stages of development in all markets. It is therefore also critical that R&D
coordination at EU level results in leveraging and bringing together numerous initiatives that are
presently fragmented across Member States and industry stakeholders.
Near term efforts to stimulate R&D will have transferrable benefits for many years to come. Drone
technologies will impact both manned and unmanned aviation of the future and EU level
coordination of innovation will ease the ability for international cooperation. The long term
implications of unmanned aviation will require such international cooperation and maintaining
safety will be positively impacted if European standards are globally consistent and accepted.
Air traffic management related technologies are the key
The demand of drones on all areas of the airspace highlights the critical nature of air traffic
management. Overall, the potential exists for drones to represent the majority of total flight time
across the entire airspace. Drones will create new forms of traffic especially at very low levels of
airspace with high demand in densely populated areas where risk levels will be increased. The
SESAR European Drones Outlook Study / 6 /
impact is also significant in more conventional classes of airspace, including controlled airspace
where approximately 20% of flight time is expected to be remotely or optionally piloted by 2050.
As a result, appropriate new and adapted procedures along with the development of technology
related to the management of airspace are a "must-have" for safely unlocking growth. The current
investment in SESAR of EUR 40 million highlights how this is already a formal priority following the
last update of the European ATM Master Plan and provides a foundation to build on, together with
critical investments coordinated by other EU bodies such as the European Defence Agency. The
seven pillars of research, as described in the SESAR RPAS definition phase document; into detect and
avoid, human factors, command and control datalink, security & cyber resilience, contingency,
demonstration & validation activities and airspace access & airport operations, all remain essential
for the safe integration of drones in all airspaces.
However, indications that these categories of technology require an estimated EUR 200 million of
R&D investment to develop technological solutions relevant at very low levels of the airspace
highlight that a gap remains to be closed, especially when markets like the US and China are
investing more. Increased investment on this end would serve two purposes:
 Create an EU unmanned aircraft traffic management (UTM) system supporting the
cohabitation/sharing of airspace of manned and unmanned systems. This need represents a
critical enabler to support economic value related to the use of drones that has not yet been
addressed at the European level. This new traffic management system requires an estimated
EUR 100 million in R&D over the coming 5-10 years, a magnitude that is in line with on-going
US investment levels in excess of EUR 20 million annually related to UTM.
 Develop distinct versions of the technologies already in progress under SESAR that are
relevant at very low levels. In total, these adaptations require an estimated additional EUR
100 million of R&D investment based on a number of factors that include, but are not
limited to, the smaller size of the drone, the type of propulsion, a separate concept of
operations and the need for more cost effective solutions.
In a nutshell: Drones represents a genuine opportunity which requires immediate
EU actions
The drone market has started bringing significant benefits all over Europe and the continuation of
that growth appears to be a matter of not if, but when. Europe has the opportunity to obtain a
significant role in this rapidly evolving global marketplace – especially in relation to services that are
expected to generate the greatest sources of value. In order to unlock this value through the
creation of a single market, while ensuring high safety standards already demonstrated by EU
aviation, a series of immediate actions must be taken at the EU level to both boost innovative
capabilities and implement comprehensive regulation that creates a single drone market. The SESAR
PPP already plays a significant role in the modernisation of EU ATM, and could help in playing a
pivotal role; indeed, bringing together public and private stakeholders is necessary to ensure that
the social and economic benefits created by drones are effectively enabled.
SESAR European Drones Outlook Study / 7 /
Figure 1 below summarizes the main outcomes of the study.
Figure 1: Key figures associated to the main outcomes of the study
EUR million, at least,
at-stake for European
demand of drone
products & services
EUR million public/private
investments, at least, in
newly discovered R&D to
be further assesse