An aerostat is a platform that utilizes a buoyant that is lighter in comparison to air, namely gases such as hydrogen, hot air, and helium. This tethered balloon is lifted by these gases and the major components comprise a lightweight skin envelope which has helium gas to provide buoyancy to carry payload. The global market for aerostat systems stood at US$3.60 billion in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$10.11 billion by 2022, expanding at a CAGR of 13.8% between 2015 and 2022.
The market for aerostat systems has been segmented in terms of balloon type, payload, aerostat class, and region. On the basis of class, aerostat systems are categorized into medium, small, and large systems. On the basis of balloon type, aerostat systems are segmented into ellipsoidal and spheroidal balloon-shaped aerostat systems. Ellipsoidal balloon-shaped aerostat systems were the most demanded aerostat systems in 2014.
Transparency Market Research (TMR) explores the five prime advantages of aerostat systems that have helped them gain importance in the field of surveillance. The reasons for the shift to aerostat systems from surveillance aircraft include their long endurance, low cost, and capabilities of high-resolution image transmission.
Aerostat systems need less time to deploy and assemble than conventional aircraft and drones, and low maintenance at a substantially decreased hourly operational cost. Due to this advantage, operators are able to obtain real-time, accurate surveillance data, at a significantly lower overall cost of ownership.
Aerostat system operate as versatile platforms in ISR payloads, namely infrared/electro-optical cameras, video, radar, cellular data, communications relay, and Wi-Fi. Hence, based on the configuration, operators receive a wide range of communication options and actionable surveillance data with the help of a single aerostat system.
A payload of multiple tons, i.e. between two and five tons, can be carried by a majority of large aerostat systems. This allows operators to mount communication payloads and surveillance equipment that are high in performance, to get real-time and accurate data.
Aerostat systems can be kept as they are and don’t require much maintenance. Due to this major advantage, there are less gaps in communication coverage as well as surveillance, which could otherwise be caused as a result of a maintenance hitch.
Another prime advantage associated with the use of aerostat systems is their combination of wide viewing angles and high resolution, which allows for precise recognition of small objects as well as surveillance of larger areas.
Presently, North America dominates the global market for aerostat systems. The reason for the high demand for these systems in North America is increased demand from the homeland security and military sectors, particularly in the U.S.
In June 2015, the U.S. military planned construction of a sensor shooter network for the protection of U.S. cities from Russia. The administration plans to network radar systems with sensor-laden aerostat balloons, in order to detect potential threats and make critical decisions with the aid of the latest information.