Firms see drone sales in Gulf surging after U.S. eases export policy
By Stanley Carvalho
Abu Dhabi (Reuters) - U.S. drone makers are expecting a surge in sales of military and civilian drones to Gulf states after the State Department eased export rules last week, industry executives said on Tuesday.
U.S. aerospace and arms companies have been pressing the U.S. government for years to ease restrictions on foreign sales of unmanned aerial vehicles - UAVs or drones - arguing that other countries such as Israel are overtaking them.
Critics argue that drone strikes kill too many civilians and violate sovereignty.
General Atomics won a $200 million contract in 2013 from the United Arab Emirates for supply of an unspecified number of predator drones, the first such sale in the region. Deliveries can now begin around April 2016, Frank Pace, the company's president, aircraft systems, said.
“With this new policy, we see a lot more activity, we are talking to a lot more countries in the Middle East,” he said on the sidelines of the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
The company is also in talks with Saudi Arabia and some other countries, he said, declining to be more specific.
Other U.S. manufacturers were equally upbeat and joint ventures were in their sights with Gulf partners aiming to develop domestic capabilities.