Future Opportunities for Metamaterials in Aerospace and Defense Markets

Aerospace and defense market is often presented as the most vibrant sector of the metamaterials market. Certainly it is where where much of the R&D funding has gone, but, nonetheless, n-tech’s analysis suggests that not a lot of actual commercial revenues have been generated in this part of the metamaterials market. 

In fact in 2016 n-tech believes that metamaterials will clock up less than $45 million in actual sales to the aerospace and defense sector.  The big payoff in this area won’t come for a few more years, although the indications are that the 2016-2020 will be a takeoff point for metamaterials used in aerospace/defense applications.

Drivers of Metamaterials Market Growth in Aerospace and Defense

We expect commercial sales of metamaterials-based components and subsystems for aerospace and defense applications to reach around $250 million by 2020 and then burgeon $2.3 billion in 2025. 

Several factors will contribute to this rapid growth, but as the exhibit below indicates, an important factor is that there appears to be a good fit for metamaterials with the megatrends that are propelling the defense and aerospace sector as a whole.  The rise of drones, the need for lightweighting and the inevitable need for improved military communications are all areas where metamaterials can help propel things forward.

Cutting radar down to size:  As n-tech sees it, an important driver for the use of metamaterials is the ability of metamaterials to expand the use of radar by making it compact and inexpensive enough to be more widely used in antimissile systems, ocean surveillance systems, space surveillance, aircraft anti-collision systems and air-defense systems.

Traditionally, radar instruments are bulky and expensive. However, Echodyne—and potentially other companies in the future—are working on smaller radar devices.  But we think that this new generation of radar may take two to three years to impact metamaterials revenues, because while the metamaterials-enabled miniaturized radar systems are a reality now, they have yet to match the performance required for military radar systems.

Indeed, it has been suggested that the initial commercial use of these small systems will be in a new kind of consumer radar for cars and private boats.  Nonetheless, “consumer radar” is largely undiscovered territory with all the inherent risks that this implies, smaller radar systems for traditional markets is a safer bet.

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