On Wednesday, the United States and over 40 other countries signed a joint declaration outlining regulations on the import and export of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — drones —Reuters reports.
“The declaration is a political commitment by its signatories that underscores growing international consensus that UAVs are subject to international law and stresses the need for transparency about exports and represents, what we believe, to be an important first step towards comprehensive international standards for the transfer and subsequent use of UAVs,” deputy spokesperson for the State Department, Mark Toner, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
The agreement, titled “Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” is a simple one-page statement outlining five general principles aimed at combating the “misuse of armed or strike-enabled UAVs,” according to the text.
Essentially, the declaration’s principles will bring signatory nations in line with U.S. drone regulations established by the FAA in February of 2015. This, as former Pentagon official Michael Horowitz told Defense News in August, is a good way for the United States to “shape” drone policy around the planet.
“One of the best tools the US has to shape how countries use drones, ironically, is to export drones to them, given the ability of the US to leverage arms export rules to shape how other countries use technology,” he said. “Especially if the US increasingly views drone proliferation as inevitable, the Obama administration likely views rules of the road as critical to ensure that the rest of the world uses drones responsibly.”
Horowitz added the declaration provides “a clear statement of US principles” and could be used “to influence the behavior of other states over time.”
Just not the behavior of the states the U.S. would most like to influence, it would seem. Notably, Russia and China — two nations with which the U.S. is currently bordering on war —refused to sign the declaration.
This could lead to problems down the road, analysts speculate. If a nation seeks UAV technology, for instance, and finds the declaration’s principles too stringent, it can simply do business with a country whose policies are more lenient — which could severely undercut the U.S. drone export market.
And the market is growing.
“Excluding the US, industry analyst firm Avascent has identified 15 foreign nations that have either announced intentions to procure armed drones or have already put forth money to do so,”writes Defense News. “Those 15 countries will spend an estimated $13.4 billion from FY15 to FY21 — a number that Avascent researchers say could easily rise if other countries decide to procure weaponized systems as well, or if those 15 nations increase their planned buy.”
Overall, Avascent foresees the drone market outside the U.S. to grow, annually, from $1.08 billion in 2015 to $1.98 billion by 2021.
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