Drone Makers Push to be Allowed to Expand Foreign Sales

Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Wes Bush, drone salesman
Not satisfied with making money off the burgeoning U.S. market for drones, defense contractors are lobbying Washington to allow them to sell pilotless aircraft to foreign buyers.
Northrop Grumman and other companies want Congress and the Obama administration to ease export restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), even though the change could result in American enemies acquiring these potential weapons.
In 1987, the Reagan administration joined other democracies (but not Israel) in signing an agreement that prohibited the sale of unmanned aircraft that carry 1,102 pounds for more than 186 miles at a time. Because UAVs below this size are allowed, some manufacturers have begun to get around the restrictions by building smaller drones. San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, for example, is keen to sell its new Predator XP drone to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates.
Still, weapons makers want to expand sales of their larger drones. Wes Bush, Northrop’s president and CEO, has complained that “export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer.” Bush also says other nations are ready to take advantage of the growing demand for drones.
Competing manufacturers of UAVs (those already selling them or preparing to) include Israel, China, Russia, South Africa and some European countries.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told The Los Angeles Times that the increased availability of UAVs could make it easier for some countries to go to war.
“The proliferation of this technology will mark a major shift in the way wars are waged,” Kimball said. “We’re talking about very sophisticated war machines here. We need to be very careful about who gets this technology. It could come back to hurt us.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Drone Makers Urge U.S. To Let Them Sell More Overseas (by W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times)
U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems (by Jeremiah Gertler, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)
Drones are a Growth Industry (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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