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Wes Bush: US Export Controls Hurt Unmanned Market Leadership

Wes Bush

The U.S. risks losing its competitive edge if industry is unable to more easily export unmanned aircraft for commercial use, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush told a group of industry and congressional executives.

Bush said the unmanned vehicle market needs similar eased export restrictions that satellite technologies are receiving, Aviation Week reports.

Eased export controls have long been sought by satellite communications providers and Bush said the delay has led to significant U.S. job and revenue loss, reducing the U.S. industry’s worldwide market share from 75 to 25 percent.

Bush said the unmanned aircraft market is expected to be worth $94 billion and the U.S. could miss out on a similar opportunity if export restrictions are not altered.

Industry is looking to export as a result of the U.S. government budget landscape but is facing additional challenges in maintaining its technological lead if unable to compete globally, Bush suggested.

The Defense Department has already asked Congress to ease export controls for SATCOM, which Bush lobbied Congress to approve and seek similar measures for UAV.

According to Bush, the U.S. was on the cusp of a new golden age with unmanned aircraft, but Bush said the U.S. may lose its market advantage soon since other countries are quickly moving in on the market opportunity.

He suggests the U.S. is already having trouble selling unmanned aircraft to allies.

Bush lauded the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace by 2015, adding the caveat that much is to be done to assure the practice is safe.

Drones could be used to monitor railways, oil pipelines, moisture levels on agriculture fields and aid in natural disasters, he said.

He said privacy concerns should also be addressed, a suggestion which several others have agreed with in comment to FAA’s proposed aircraft integration testing sites.

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