Mobile robotics has the potential to be the next technological frontier in flexible robotics. Increased implementation of mobile robots by end users in agricultural, medical and defense sectors to harness their flexibility has driven the mobile robotics market. Mobile robots serve as an ideal platform to perform repetitive tasks efficiently, thereby enabling workers to focus on higher-value tasks, which helps in increasing overall operational efficiency. Commercialization of the concept of automated cars owing to technological advancements in robotics is expected to favorably impact mobile robotics market over the next six years.
Development in the field of mobile robotics has infused the capability of disarming roadside bombs in mobile robots, which helps counter the threat of increased terrorist attacks. Funds and grants received from the governments of several countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Germany is expected to bolster the mobile robotics market. In October 2014, scientists explored the possibility of deploying mobile robots in Ebola-hit regions of Africa in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to perform tasks such as waste removal and burial of bodies. If successful, the field of mobile robotics can alleviate the spread of epidemics. Mobile robotics is a relatively untapped market in developing countries of Asia-Pacific and Latin America and therefore has the potential for growth over the forecast period. The global market was valued at over USD 6 billion in 2012.
The mobile robotics market is segregated into four segments based on product, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs). UGV is expected to be the most dominant segment over the forecast period on account of increased applications in military and defense fields. UAVs are expected to witness steady growth throughout the forecast period owing to increased demand in the military, defense, photography, surveying & mapping, wildlife research & survey, and security applications. The market for USVs has been driven by global positioning systems and cost effective wireless data systems, which is expected to continue over the next six years.
Mobile robots are used in industrial as well as service applications. Typical industrial applications include warehousing & distribution, painting & depainting, and coating & dispensing. Service applications are bifurcated into professional and personal applications. Professional applications comprise military & defense, mining, medical, agricultural, forest harvesting, and logistics. Personal applications consist of domestic tasks such as entertainment, cleaning, and maintenance. The demand for domestic robots such as lawn movers and vacuum cleaners used in personal service applications has been propelled by the availability of open source software development platforms and decreasing prices of sensors and cameras. Integration of mobile robots with mobile technologies and smart appliances is expected to augment the sales of personal service mobile robots.
Asia Pacific dominated the mobile robotics market in 2013 and is expected to witness high growth over the forecast period owing to strong demand for UAVs in Australia, Japan, China, India, and South Korea. Increased use in agricultural, medical and industrial applications is expected to drive the regional mobile robotics market. Domestic robots for maintenance and cleaning are commonly used in countries such as the U.S., Japan, Germany, and France. The U.S. is expected to dominate R&D spending on UAV technology over the next decade.
Leading mobile robotics players have focused on developing robots capable of sustaining and performing in challenging environments. For instance, Adept has developed a self-navigating Autonomous Indoor Vehicle (AIV) called ‘Lynx,' capable of dynamically moving material in challenging environments such as confined passageways and densely populated indoor settings. Mobile robotics companies have been working on developing mobile-based applications for controlling unmanned vehicles. iRobot Corp. developed an Android-based app called uPoint Multi-Robot Control (MRC) system, for standardizing the control of unmanned vehicles and simplifying operations such as driving, manipulation, and inspection, allowing operators to concentrate on the mission at hand.
John Deere, which specializes in developing agricultural solutions, introduced the 8000-series self-propelled forage harvesters that automate and simplifies crop harvesting process. There have been considerable mergers and acquisitions in the mobile robotics industry such as Adept Technology’s acquisition of MobileRobotics Inc., and KUKA’s acquisition of Swisslog. With a view to investing in mobile robotics, Google Inc. acquired London-based artificial intelligence company, DeepMind. Google DeepMind group, in collaboration with Oxford's artificial intelligence (AI) research teams, have started working on image recognition and natural language understanding. In October 2014, Honda's humanoid robot, Asimo, created with the aim of assisting people with daily household tasks, was unveiled in the UK.
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