Unmanned vehicles among most promising opportunities for embedded computing

Unmanned aircraft, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and unmanned sea vehicles will see substantial growth over the next decade, and are prime candidates for embedded computing, says Brian Arbuckle, senior market analyst at IHS Markit in London.

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NEW ORLEANS - Unmanned aircraft, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and unmanned sea vehicles will see substantial growth over the next decade, and are prime candidates for embedded computing, says Brian Arbuckle, senior market analyst at IHS Markit in London.

From now until 2026, 63,000 new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be built for global military forces, 30,000 military unmanned ground vehicles with extended mission endurance in hostile environments will be built, and about 2,000 unmanned sea vehicles will be provided to global militaries, Arbuckle says.

For embedded computing suppliers, unmanned vehicle radar signal processing, electronic warfare (EW), and signals intelligence applications will be bright spots for design-ins of single-board computers, small-form-factor embedded computing systems, and other embedded computing technologies. Yet, questions remain to be answered before suppliers can be assured of these kinds of promising market opportunities, particularly with a new U.S. president.

"The big question will be what will the new administration do with defense spending," Arbuckle adds. Recent studies project U.S. defense spending to remain flat at about $600 billion annually from 2015 to 2021 - well past Trump's first term in office.

"The Trump factor is a risk factor to this forecast," Arbuckle explains. "Will there be policy changes to increase defense spending? I suspect there will be. Is NATO obsolete? What's going to happen? I couldn't even guess."

For embedded computing suppliers over the next decade, military and industrial-control applications will represent the most promising markets, Arbuckle says. For embedded computing form factors, Arbuckle expects applications growth in 6U and 3U VPX embedded computing design-ins, while traditional VME applications will see contraction. Additional embedded computing market growth over the next 10 years will occur in computer-on-module (COM) architectures, as well as in standard single-board computers.

Poor growth is expected in applications of the xTCA subset of Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) in embedded computing involving physics applications over the next decade, Arbuckle says. "The xTCA market really is collapsing, as equipment manufacturers are going to a software-centric approach," he says.

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