How Much Does the US Military Spend on Drones?

$7 billion dollars was requested in 2018 by US military for drones and drone technology, an increase of 21% over 2017.

Stats reveal that the US military is spending a huge amount on drones for the past five-six years. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget presented by the Department of Defence shows a huge amount of $6.97 billion reserved specifically for the drone-related operations. These drones will be used in a variety of applications including system-specific constructions, research and development as well. T

he funding for existing unmanned aircraft in the President’s Budget for the year 2018 is kept the same as that of the previous year; however, the amount is considerably increased for research and development. It sets a foundation for programs that will develop maritime drones, unmanned ground drones and next-gen unmanned aircraft.

It is observed that the underlying developments and trends are going to leave a huge impact on the future development of powerful unmanned systems in sea, ground and air. Some experts have analyzed the previous year’s budget and compared it with the current one to understand the changes over time. It is observed that the catalogue has more than 400 budget line projects and items that have received the estimated funding of more than $34.6 billion in the Fiscal year 2013 and 2018.

In order to understand how much spending the US military makes on drones, it is first important to study the budget requests of the Pentagon. The reports of drones are usually based on a few major platforms such as Navy’s Triton or Air Force’s Reaper. If we look at the annual summary of Pentagon about funding for defense systems, around $2.6 million was assigned to unmanned aircraft in the Fiscal Year 2018. However, this system estimate doesn’t include few items such as spare part procurement and for the existing drone systems. Other than this, the emerging drone capabilities and systems are also excluded.

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget request provides funding for the emerging technologies and capabilities, but they have not added major focus to the future of such programs. Congress at present is also debating on the spending levels of the existing unmanned drones as well as for many new drone models such as MQ-25 Stingray, Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle and a carrier-based aerial refueler drone. With these debates, the public and stakeholders may also understand the funding division between different projects and the priorities given to different systems and programs.

It is observed that the future drone force for military forces will be much advanced than what we have today. It is expected that the drone budget may double in few coming years. The chances are that the total amount for the commercial and military drone applications will be $11.5 billion by the end of 2024. With the huge growth in this sector, the amount may reach $91 billion in the coming years. The growth of the drone market in the United States is much higher as compared to other countries and it will keep rising in the coming years as well. The civilian drone market is also expected to grow and it will expand in three categories as Government UAVs, commercial UAVs and hobbyist UAVs.

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