The biggest exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles, which are fast becoming essential to governments worldwide for both military and civilian uses, isn’t the United States, China or other major power. The big winner in this booming global market is Israel. And that creates a lot of geopolitical complications, for the obvious reasons.
Thanks to massive budget cuts and tanking economies, many Western governments, especially in Europe and the United States, are slashing defense spending and eliminating big-ticket weapons systems. Dozens of other countries, throughout Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, are spending more and more these days on their burgeoning militaries. But no matter their economic situation, the one thing they’re all clamoring for is drones. Especially those made in a certain tiny Middle East country surrounded by lots of enemies.
Israel was recently anointed as the world’s largest exporter of the small surveillance planes, according to a major study by the Frost & Sullivan international business consulting firm. The handful of Israeli companies that manufacture the drones earned at least $4.6 billion in sales during the last eight years, Frost & Sullivan said in its report. That tally includes exports of the planes themselves and operating and communications systems and payloads. American defense companies probably manufacture more drones, but they send much of them to the US military and its close allies, Frost & Sullivan’s Eran Flumin told Quartz. Also, US restrictions limit the number of drones that American firms can export.