The potential expansion of commercial unmanned systems, combined with efforts to drive down costs to build and operate drones already in the Pentagon's arsenal, have made those weapons and aircraft cheaper to field than ever before, Vice told reporters during a briefing in Washington.
"And this is going to continue," despite the difficult fiscal environment facing the Defense Department in the coming years, he said.
Pentagon leaders slashed just over $1 billion total from its unmanned-weapons programs within the department's $45.4 billion request for all military aircraft spending in its fiscal 2014 spending budget.
Dyke Weatherington, the Pentagon's unmanned-warfare director, told industry leaders earlier this month that those cuts forecasted for fiscal 2014 were just the beginning.
"We will see [future] reductions" to unmanned-weapons portfolios, Weatherington said at an industry symposium on unmanned-vehicle systems in Washington.
Those future cuts will hit Defense Department coffers hardest in the fiscal 2015 budget plan, which is currently being drafted inside the Pentagon, and over the next two to three budget cycles.
The move is part of the department's overall strategy to cope with $500 billion in spending cuts mandated by the sequester over the next decade. The cuts began in March, and are slated to reduce Pentagon spending by $52 billion next year.
But even with that anticipated drop in drone investment, Vice argued the services and the department's growing appetite for newer, more advanced unmanned systems will ensure sector growth for the next several years.
Anticipated Defense Department investments in next-generation unmanned technology could include unmanned aircraft that can refuel manned warplanes as well as other drones, according to Vice.
Drone aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, as well as drones that can move across land and underwater, are also future unmanned capabilities the Pentagon is pushing hard for, he added.
Outside of the U.S. military drone market, foreign forces in the Asia-Pacific region — namely South Korea, Japan and Australia — have emerged as lucrative markets for American unmanned-weapons tech.
American allies in the region, specifically, are looking for aerial drones that can fly surveillance missions for hours, and in some cases, days on end to cover the miles and miles of open ocean surrounding those countries, according to Vice.
"We see the need in international markets for long-endurance" unmanned aircraft, he told reporters on Monday.
Seoul is reportedly still in talks with Northrop officials to purchase several of the company's Global Hawk long-range drones for surveillance and reconnaissance missions along the peninsula and the country's coastal waters.
Aside from those future defense applications of drone technology for U.S. and foreign militaries, moving unmanned systems into the commercial sector "is not far behind," according to Vice.
Unmanned cargo aircraft, as well as drones that can move cargo across land, are also on the list of the "commercial applications" U.S. and international drone-makers are hoping can buoy the industry, he said, in the face of the Pentagon spending drawdown.