The Week of New Drone Policy

This week has been an important one in the world of drone policy. On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration released their suggested regulations for commercial drones. Beyond the civil use of drones, the State Department announced Feb. 17 a new policy that will make it easier to sell U.S. military drones to American allies.

MQ-9 Reaper being inspected in Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo

An airman inspects a MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo

For many, selling missile-carrying drones abroad raises more than a few concerns. The U.S. drone program is already a controversial domestic issue. But government officials are emphasizing that all sales of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) will be conducted with the utmost care and prudence. “The United States is committed to stringent standards for the sale, transfer, and subsequent use of U.S.-origin military UAS,” the State Department said in their announcement.

The United States’ new UAS export policy establishes the standards by which the United States will assess, on a case-by-case basis under the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, potential exports of military UASs, including armed systems.

Recipient states will be able to buy drones as long as they abide by certain guidelines. These “end-use assurances” include using the drones in accordance with international humanitarian law. States will be forbidden from using drones for “unlawful surveillance or use unlawful force against their domestic populations.”

Military drones are becoming widely available on the international market. The New York Times suggests that U.S. allies might buy drones from Israel or China if it were not for the new policy. The State Department is very aware of the economic benefits that the new policy would have for the U.S. drone industry.

[The new drone policy] ensures appropriate participation for U.S. industry in the emerging commercial UAS market, which will contribute to the health of the U.S. industrial base, and thus to U.S. national security which includes economic security.

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