Robotics and drones spending forecast to reach $128.7 billion

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – Worldwide spending on robotics systems and drones will be $128.7 billion in 2020, an increase of 17.1 per cent over 2019, according to a new update to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Robotics and Drones Spending Guide. By 2023, IDC expects this spending will reach $241.4 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.8 per cent.

Robotics systems will be the larger of the two categories throughout the five-year forecast period with worldwide robotics spending forecast to be $112.4 billion in 2020. Spending on drones will total $16.3 billion in 2020 but is forecast to grow at a faster rate (33.3 per cent CAGR) than robotics systems (17.8 per cent CAGR).

Hardware purchases will dominate the robotics market with 60 per cent of all spending going toward robotic systems, after-market robotics hardware and system hardware. Purchases of industrial robots and service robots will total more than $30 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, robotics-related software spending will mostly go toward purchases of command and control applications and robotics-specific applications. Services spending will be spread across several segments, including systems integration, application management, and hardware deployment and support. Services spending is forecast to grow at a slightly faster rate (21.3 per cent CAGR) than software or hardware spending (21.2 per cent CAGR and 15.5 per cent CAGR, respectively).

“Software developments are among the most important trends currently shaping the robotics industry. Solution providers are progressively integrating additional software-based, often cloud-based, functionalities into robotics systems,”said Remy Glaisner, research director, Worldwide Robotics: Commercial Service Robots. “An operational-centric example is an asset management application to monitor the robotic equipment performance in real-time. It aligns solutions with current expectations for modern operational technology (OT) at large and plays in facilitated adoption by operations leaders. Equally important is the early trend driven by burgeoning ‘software-defined’ capabilities for robotics and drone solutions. The purpose is to enable systems beyond some of the limitations imposed by hardware and to open up entirely new sets of commercially viable use-cases.”

Discrete manufacturing will be responsible for nearly half of all robotics systems spending worldwide in 2020 with purchases totalling $53.8 billion. The next largest industries for robotics systems will be process manufacturing, resource industries, healthcare and retail. The industries that will see the fastest growth in robotics spending over the 2019-2023 forecast are wholesale (30.5 per cent CAGR), retail (29.3 per cent CAGR), and construction (25.2 per cent CAGR).

“Despite movement toward a trade agreement between the US and China, it appears that tariffs may remain in place on many robotics systems. This will have a negative impact on both the manufacturing and resource industries, where robotics adoption has been strong. The additional duties will likely slow investment in the robotics systems used in manufacturing processes, automated supply chains and mining operations,” said Jessica Goepfert, program VP, customer insights and analysis.

Spending on drones will also be dominated by hardware purchases with more than 90 per cent of the category total going toward consumer drones, after-market sensors and service drones in 2020. Drone software spending will primarily go to command and control applications and drone-specific applications while services spending will be led by education and training. Software will see the fastest growth (38.2 per cent CAGR) over the five-year forecast, followed closely by services (37.6 per cent CAGR) and hardware (32.8 per cent CAGR).

Industry spending on drones will be led by utilities ($1.9 billion), construction ($1.4 billion), and the discrete manufacturing and resource industries ($1.2 billion each). IDC expects the resource industry to move ahead of both construction and discrete manufacturing to become the second largest industry for drone spending in 2021.