Market growth will drive a requirement for nearly 22,000 new civil and parapublic helicopters globally over the next two decades, almost doubling the current fleet, a new study predicts.
Airbus Helicopters, in its 20-Year Market Forecast – similar to the Global Market Forecasts produced by its fixed-wing sibling – says a total of 21,822 new commercial rotorcraft worth €125 billion ($147 billion) will be acquired.
Emerging economies represent the largest slice of demand, at 80%, whereas mature regions, notably North America and Europe, will take 65% of those rotorcraft required as replacements.
Light single- and twin-engined helicopters will dominate, accounting for 16,234 combined sales, or 74% of the total.
However, the larger, more expensive medium, super-medium and heavy-twin platforms will represent a combined 51% of the order value, it forecasts.
The largest market segment in terms of deliveries and value will be commercial – which includes utility and transport missions – accounting for representative figures of 39% and 31%.
At the other end of the scale, the weakest performer will be the energy sector, representing just 8% of deliveries and 14% by value.
Underpinning the forecast's modelling is an increase in the use of unmanned air vehicles, notably for aerial filming and some law enforcement missions.
"In the long run, after 2030, it is unlikely that we will sell helicopters for this application [TV work]," says David Prevor, head of marketing at Airbus Helicopters.
"But at the moment we don't know when a UAV will come that can transport five passengers."
He notes that of the forecast sales of 10,949 light-singles, a number will have optionally piloted capability.
Surprisingly, given the manufacturer's commitment to its Racer programme, one segment not included within the forecast is high-speed helicopters, due to uncertain demand.
In addition, Airbus Helicopters predicts that 2017 will mark a return to growth for civil helicopter sales, with the market having fallen by about 30% over the past five years.
First-half figures from all the manufacturers show growth of about 3%.