The United Kingdom emerged as the world’s largest importer of drones, or as the industry prefers to call them unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and Israel is the largest exporter, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Biggest drone importing countries: Percentage of total UAVs — colloquially known as drones (2010-2014) received by country:
Biggest drone exporting countries: % of total UAVs (1985-2014) supplied by exporting country:
While Israeli and US companies dominate the drone export market. Between 2010 and 2014, there were 439 drones exchanged compared to 322 in the five years previous to that.
Global drone trade: transfers of drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)
2010-14 = 428 UAVs; and 11 armed UAVs (also called unmanned combat aerial vehicles, UCAVs)
2005-09 = 317 UAVs; and 5 armed UAVs (also called unmanned combat aerial vehicles, UCAVs)
2000-04 = 272 UAVs
1995-99 – 192 UAVs
1990-94 = 164 UAVs
1985-90 = 185 UAVs
UAVs made up just 0.3% of total major arms trade between 2010 and 2014, according to Sipri.
In 2010–14 at least 35 countries and the UN together received 429 larger UAVs (counting those with a take-off weight of 25 kg or more). Israel and the United States have been the main suppliers.
While the United States has used armed UAVs (also called unmanned combat aerial vehicles, UCAVs) intensively for the past decade and other countries have expressed widespread interest in their acquisition. UCAVs have been sold only to the United Kingdom and Nigeria.
Between 2007 and 2014 the UK received 11 MQ-9 Reaper UCAVs from the US.
China became the second country to export armed drones by sending 5 CH-3 UCAVs to Nigeria for its fight with Boko-Haram rebels.
In 2013, the US sent the huge (15-tonne) 1 Global Hawk to Germany. It is the largest drone ever exported, as well as the most expensive ($130m) and the one with the biggest range of travel (14,000km)
America is to export armed drones to its military allies and other countries it considers friendly. The sales will come with a series of strict requirements that the armed drone would be used in accordance with international law and would not be used for unlawful surveillance.
“The United States is the world’s technological leader in the development and deployment of military Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, or drones),” the State Department said in a statement.
So far only three countries have used armed drones in conflict, the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom.