4 Key Areas of Innovation in the Global Off-Road Equipment Market

While the design fundamentals of most off-road machinery are deeply established and well understood, technological developments are crucial for suppliers to differentiate their products – and a key driver of sales growth in the $416 billion global off-road equipment market. A new Freedonia Group study examines the areas where suppliers are focusing their R&D efforts, and how innovations in drones, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and other advanced technologies will boost growth through 2025.

Autonomous Equipment & Robotics

Manufacturers are pursuing the development of autonomous machines for a number of purposes – most critically to improve project efficiency and to increase worker safety – with the mining, construction, and agricultural equipment markets the key targets of innovation:

  • Autonomous machines are well suited for mining and agricultural uses, as these applications typically involve controlled environments where tasks are performed consistently over a long period.
  • Worker safety is a key driver of investment for construction sites and especially for mining operations, as mining involves extracting resources from harder to reach locations and in harsher environments.


Drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are being increasingly used by commercial farmers and managers of construction and mining operations as a means to:

  • inventory plants, trees, and other resources and monitor crop health
  • locate machines or livestock
  • monitor job sites or farm perimeters and prevent illegal activity (e.g., trespassing, poaching, or unauthorized logging or mining)
  • survey, map, and inspect terrain and building sites using various imaging techniques

Most drones employed in these markets are multi-purpose models that can be adapted and modified to specific applications. Hardware such as cameras, sensors, GPS devices, and radar can expand the capabilities of drones at industrial and agricultural sites.

Fuel-Efficient & Low- or Zero-Emission Equipment

A variety of new technologies have been used by manufacturers of off-road equipment to reduce the environmental impact of equipment, lower fuel consumption, and comply with more demanding emissions regulations. For instance, many of the world’s leading manufacturers have unveiled alternative fuel or hybrid models (e.g., diesel-electric) that are considerably cleaner than earlier generation models, consume less fuel, and emit less carbon. Key benefits to electric-powered and hybrid engine technologies also include improved handling, reduced noise pollution, and longer lifespans.

Advanced Ergonomics & Improved Operator Comfort

An important focus of technology developments in off-road equipment is improving handling and ergonomics to boost efficiency and productivity. For example, manufacturers have found that enhancements to cab designs can lead to heightened productivity by helping the operator manage the machinery with more accuracy. Using ergonomics and new technology to make off-road equipment more comfortable and safer can also make these jobs more appealing, enhancing employee retention and the recruitment of additional workers. This is especially important as many countries feature tight labor markets that makes it difficult to find skilled operators.

Want to Learn More?

Global Off-Road Equipment 2021 is now available from the Freedonia Group. This study analyzes global demand for off-road equipment.

Demand values are provided for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2025 at the manufacturers’ level in current US dollars (i.e., not adjusted to account for inflation). Demand is segmented by equipment type and world region. Off-road equipment demand is segmented by the following machinery types:

  • construction
  • agricultural
  • mining
  • forestry

The study also provides estimates of demand for smart machinery by equipment type. Smart machinery is defined as equipment that can operate autonomously or semi-autonomously and greatly enhance the abilities of the operator by connecting, sharing, and interacting with other devices to make decisions without human intervention.

While demand for drones is presented in the study, it is not included in the equipment demand totals. Also, drones used by government agencies or environmental groups to monitor forested land are excluded from the study.