Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group, agreed that the control regime could prevent U.S. drone manufacturers from accessing emerging markets. “There’s definitely a risk of losing market share because of MTCR,” he said. “As this technology spreads worldwide, the U.S. and Israel are not going to be the only exporters. New potential exporters include Turkey and India. China is developing a wide range of UAVs and is beginning to get into the export market.”
Turkey is one of 34 MTCR members. Israel, China and India do not have to abide by the regime’s export rules. Some change has occurred in the interpretation of the MTCR, allowing U.S. allies to purchase certain systems, Finnegan said. The Australian Navy has purchased the Triton, the U.S. Navy’s maritime version of the Global Hawk for surveillance missions at sea. South Korea is also interested in the Triton, while Japan has indicated a desire to own the U.S. Air Force’s version of the UAV, he said.
“You are also seeing a trend where U.S. companies are being proactive and trying to develop export versions of UAVs that are saleable,” Finnegan said. General Atomics did just that with its Predator XP, an unarmed version of the medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV flown by the U.S. military. The United Arab Emirates was able to procure an XP because it is specifically designed to not carry weapons and its maximum payload is below the 500-kilogram threshold. General Atomics officials declined to comment for this story.
“Allies will buy these versions that may not have the capabilities that U.S. forces use but suit their purposes fine,” Finnegan said. “That opens the way for a country like Saudi Arabia to purchase these kinds of high-end UAVs.”