The market for aerostat systems has been experiencing substantial growth in recent years. This growth is attributed to increasing demand for aerostats in military and homeland security applications. The aerostat systems market is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 13.8% during the forecast period from 2015 to 2022. The overall aerostat systems market was valued at US$ 3,604.7 Mn in 2014. Key factors driving the market include the high endurance, high-resolution image-transmission capabilities, and cost effectiveness of aerostat systems.

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Demand for aerostat systems globally is driven by the high competitive advantages of aerostat systems over surveillance aircrafts, increasing the need for persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance worldwide. The most significant advantage of aerostat systems over other surveillance systems is their low cost. Moreover, the use of aerostat systems for surveillance and communication applications significantly reduces the fuel costs associated with surveillance aircrafts and drones. Aerostat systems have fewer mechanical parts than aircrafts and drones. This substantially decreases the need for periodic maintenance of these systems, thus, further reducing their maintenance costs. Besides, aerostat systems require less time for assembly and deployment, providing faster operation readiness. Most large-class aerostat systems have the capacity to carry payloads of several tons, typically ranging from two to five tons. This feature enables the mounting of high-performance surveillance and communication payloads on aerostat systems for accurate and real-time data.

Furthermore, aerostat systems are capable of being aloft for several weeks without any maintenance. This feature further ensures fewer lapses in surveillance and communication coverage, arising due to maintenance issues. Because of these advantages, the demand for aerostat systems is expected to remain strong over other platforms during the forecast period. However, the availability of alternatives such as airships and unmanned aerial vehicles is posing a challenge to the market’s growth.

Aerostat systems offer a number of advantages, such as capability for surveillance of larger areas and accurate detection of smaller objects. However, due to their high precision with respect to the detection of objects, aerostat systems are becoming increasingly popular in maritime applications. Conventionally, radar surveillance systems are mounted to ships for the detection of objects. However, small objects such as small ships and fast-moving boats are not detected easily using ship-mounted radar. Aerostat surveillance radar can be mounted at heights of 1,000–15,000 feet. Radar systems mounted at these heights are capable of accurately monitoring different objects near shores, thereby eliminating the possibilities of collision. The most common types of aerostat systems deployed for maritime applications are medium-class aerostats with lengths ranging from 20 to 50 meters.

On the basis of balloon shape, the global aerostat systems market is segmented into spheroidal and ellipsoidal segments. In 2014, the ellipsoidal aerostat systems were the most preferred. However, the spheroidal aerostat systems segment is expected to expand at a substantial CAGR during the forecast period. This growth is attributed to the better aerodynamics of spheroidal aerostats as compared to their ellipsoidal counterparts. The aerostat systems market, on the basis of class, is segmented into small-, medium-, and large-class aerostat systems. At present, medium-class aerostat systems hold the largest revenue share worldwide.

Based on payload types, the global aerostat systems market is segmented into communication relays, electro-optics, surveillance radars, and navigation systems. Surveillance radars, being the most traditional means of surveillance, dominated the global aerostat systems market in 2014. However, with the growing adoption of electro-optics systems across different applications, the electro-optics segment is expected to witness the highest growth during the forecast period.

The global aerostat systems market is also classified on the basis of application into military, homeland security, commercial, and environmental research. In 2014, the military applications segment accounted for the largest revenue share in the global aerostat systems market owing to the increasing demand for surveillance systems. Furthermore, the military application segment is predicted to hold its dominant position in the global aerostat systems market throughout the forecast period.

In 2014, North America was the largest market for aerostat systems globally. The growth of the aerostat systems market in North America is mainly supported by the high demand for these systems from the U.S. military and Department of Homeland Security. However, due to the high penetration of aerostat systems in the region, the demand for these systems is predicted to remain low in the coming years.

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