If you comb through the press releases, special displays and briefings at the 100th year of the Paris Air Show, unmanned aerial vehicles loom larger than anything else.
Virtually every major company is offering briefings on their standard bearers: Lockheed is looking at delivering on the promise of the F-35. Boeing and Northrop are doing updates on airborne tankers. And EADS will be talking a lot about their troubled A400M transport aircraft and why the C-130J is the wrong plane for France to buy. But it is the UAV briefings from the Israelis, Northrop, Boeing and others that offer the best promise of news and of new products.
The reason for the excitement about UAVs is not just that no one seems able to get enough of them to satisfy the military's needs. It's a wide open market, one that the primes have not gobbled up yet or figured out how to dominate.
"It’s an undefined market space so everyone is trying to get into it, " says Robbin Laird, an international defense consultant who is already in Paris, combing through the exhibitions and companies. "It’s very difficult to dominate but relatively easy to get into."
Compared to the fighter market, cargo and the civilian passenger sectors, UAVs are a wide open market. Laird notes that none of the UAVs have made it beyond the hand-made manufacturing approach. "It’s not an area where manufacturing has really emerged. It's still a hand-built business," he says, adding that the primes are very eager to get in because the next stage in this market is to standardize the equipment and build them in larger numbers.
Here are few of the UAV briefings on tap at the Paris Air Show, which begins June 15. Watch for DoD Buzz's detailed daily coverage from the show. Bryant Jordan and I will be combing the chalets and air field for news and posting videos of the more interesting newsmakers and technologies.
Right after the show opens on Monday, Northrop will brief on its unmanned air and sea systems. At 1 pm, Boeing will brief on ScanEagle, A160T, Unmanned Little Bird, SolarEagle, MQ-X, and Integrator.
The next day at 11 a.m., Raytheon "will discuss its plans to become a much larger player in the UAS market. We will also have new details about our latest entry into the UAS arena, the KillerBee UAS."
For its part, Israel's national display "will highlight UAVs in all types, shapes and sizes."