1. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA)
Boeing has had a hand in the drone market for a number of years, mostly developing for the U.S. military. They have more recently been testing the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye drone, which Boeing says can stay at 65,000 feet for up to four days without refueling.
The company, led by W. James McNerney, Jr., had revenues of $81.7 billion in 2012 and looks set to smash through that when 2013 results are announced later this year.
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2. General Atomics
The San-Diego based company is credited with building the Predator drone, the much-feared aircraft that saw action way back during the Balkans war, where the Americans lost two. Since then it’s been deployed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran and the Philippines. Last year, the company signed a deal to supply $197 million worth of drones to the United Arab Emirates. In 2012, the company brought in more than $652 million in revenues.
3. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)
Like Boeing, Lockheed is testing a drone -- the Stalker -- that can stay in the air for days at a time. In 2012, the company brought in revenues of $47.2 billion.
4. Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC)
Founded only in 1994, Northrop has quickly risen to become one of the top suppliers of military hardware in the world. In 2012, the company sold $1.2 billion worth of drones to South Korea, but revenue has dropped to $25.1 billion in 2012 from $34 billion in 2011.
5. AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV)
AeroVironment is the company responsible for the “Hummingbird drone” ordered by the Pentagon. But the incredibly accurate little drone is capable of far more than just looking good. It has a tiny camera that can follow your every move. According to CEO Timothy Conver, revenue is expected to drop to $230 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
6. Prox Dynamics AS
The Norway-based company is really only famous for one product, but what a product it has become. They developed the Black Hornet Nano, a tiny hand-held helicopter that can help soldiers survey enemy areas quickly. It can fly at its top speed for up to 30 minutes at a time and cost the British Army $31 million to equip its various regiments with the drone.
7. Denel Dynamics
South Africa isn’t well known for its drones, but government-owned Denel has seen sales of its drones increase by 20 percent in 2013 because of the increased demand, according to the company, in the Middle East, East Asia and Africa.
The company brought in $2.87 billion in revenue in 2012, up 3 percent from last year. Their specialty is building underwater drones for the Pentagon to defend against submarines.
9. Israel Aerospace Industries
IAI was pioneering drone use as far back as the 1970s, but the recent explosion in demand is making the company a real force in Israel and abroad. Revenues in 2011 were $3.44 billion.
10. Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT)
Appetite for military drones has pushed the company’s revenues toward nearly $13 billion. Their drones have proven so successful that the company has committed to building unmanned underwater vehicles.
11. General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD)
The company reported a $2 billion loss in January 2013, citing defense cuts. The company also happens to be one of the major donors to the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, known as the drone caucus.
The DJI Phantom is the drone of choice for filmmakers and is reported to be the most complete commercial drone on the market. The company has started pouring much of its resources into the U.S. market, betting that the FAA will relax rules in 2015.