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American Contractors Lobby for Loosened Export Restrictions on Drones

Rep. Howard Berman

American contractors are advocating the loosening of export restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles to open up foreign markets to the revolutionary aircraft.

According to an L.A. Times article, companies such as Northrop Grumman want to tap a foreign market that is eager for drones, which are already being sold by countries such as Israel and China.

Wesley G. Bush, Northrop’s CEO said at a defense conference this year that export restrictions are not benefitting the U.S. but are only hurting private enterprise. He added that the U.S. is struggling to sell UAVs to our allies while other nations are dominating the market share and will continue to do so unless something changes.

The Congressional Research Service wrote in its January report that new business is likely to be generated in the UAV market, and if U.S. companies don’t capture the market share, European, Russian, Israeli, Chinese or South African companies will.

Advocates in contracting and governemnt also point out that the U.S. already sells fighter jets, bunker-busting bombs and high powered ship mounted guns, so why not drones?

Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) said it’s crazy to shut off sales while other countries push ahead and that rebuilding the economy relies on exports and the U.S. should assert its strengths.

Drone sales have been almost entirely prohibited since a 1987 agreement by the Missile Technology Control Regime which banned exports of large pilotless aircraft that can carry 1,102 pounds for more than 186 miles.

The MTCR is made up of 34 member countries that are united by the goal of non-proliferation for unmanned delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

Although the law was signed during the Cold War and was intended to ban exports of ballistic missiles, it is still relevant and keeps American contractors from exporting their UAVs.

Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball says that having unmanned drones might make the decision to go to war easier because of the lack of human pilot risk.

He added, that the U.S. has to be very careful about who gets the technology because it could come back to hurt its citizens.

Arms control advocates say that the potential for the remote controlled killing machines to fall into enemy hands is too great.

Even Berman said that any change to U.S. export controls should be done cautiously and not at the risk of compromising national security.

No matter the outcome in the contractors struggle to make exportation of Drones widespread, the marketplace for UAVs will continue to grow.

Aerospace research firm Teal Group Corporation estimated worldwide drone spending will double over the next decade, from $6.6 billion this year to $11.4 billion in 2022.

The U.S. market is flattening out according to the article; the Pentagon has built up its drone fleet to nearly 7,500.

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