What does the future hold for the helicopter industry? Friend or foe – helicopters and UAVs are on the same flight path, but how will both react? And, how will Brexit impact operations in the skies around the world? Helitech International recently conducted a survey to identify what rotorcraft professionals think of the current industry.
By formally triggering Article 50, the UK started the two-year countdown to when it leaves the EU. Heading for uncharted territory and an uncertain geopolitical climate across Europe, many industries are unsure about what the future holds. Without the stranglehold of EU legislation, some industries see it as a positive, whereas manufacturers exporting goods into the UK are slightly more concerned.
The helicopter industry is one of those that is less worried, with over half of respondents believing that Brexit will not impact their business at all. Around 30% thinking it will have a direct effect, while under 20% are undecided.
Interestingly, approximately two thirds of the industry do not think that Brexit will result in more regulations for operators. This truly is testament to the global nature of our industry that many feel negotiations between Britain and the EU will have a limited effect on regulations around the world.
Results show the industry believes that Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) have the biggest growth potential for the next 10 years. This could be down to low numbers of HEMS rotorcraft in Asia, where significant investment is expected in the near future. Elsewhere, VIP/Corporate, Utility, SAR and Off-shore all are expected to grow, according to respondents. This diversity will be reflected at Helitech International this year, with the seminar programme spanning a range of sectors including HEMS, SAR, UAVs, plus Offshore Oil & Gas and Offshore Wind.
Geographically, it is clear which region of the globe the industry feels will drive growth, with 73% indicating they expect Asia to deliver the biggest increase in sales over the next year.
Overall, around two thirds of respondents believe that the helicopter industry will experience growth over the next five years. This could be down to the fact that growth in recent years has been fairly stagnant but now there is a cautious optimism throughout the industry with a growing number quietly confident about the future.
However, 60% also feel, that in comparison to the aviation industry as a whole, the pace of innovation in the rotorcraft sector is lagging. One area of innovation that has attracted a lot of interest is the civil tiltrotor, yet our respondents were divided over future demand. When asked ‘Do you think there is market appetite for a certified civil tiltrotor or compound aircraft that would provide significant advances in speed and range?’ 53% responded positively while 47% questioned the need for it.
At Helitech International this year, we’re making sure that technology and innovation throughout the industry is fully covered, with a wide range of exhibitors showcasing their latest developments. We will also be discussing the future use of big data/integrated systems to maximise maintenance and preparedness in the Connected Helicopter seminar.
As one of the more controversial subjects in the rotorcraft space, opinions differ on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their potential impact on operations. A slight majority believe they present an opportunity, whereas 31% feel threatened by the development. A quarter of respondents feel they offer no difference. This is an area with huge – but currently underexplored – potential that operators should be working together to learn more about how UAVs can improve the operations in all sectors, in particular HEMS and SAR.
Overall, the outlook within the industry remains a positive one, with the HEMS sector and Asian markets predicted to be big earners over the coming years, while the impact of Brexit is expected to be minimal.
Helitech International will take place at ExCeL London from 3-5 October. Registration for the show is live http://www.helitechinternational.com/register
By Gillian Jenner, Editorial Director