For years, the United States has maintained a
technological edge in the world of unmanned systems. But with more nations
taking the plunge on indigenous drone capabilities, industry and experts alike
are looking to the US government to change a longstanding policy that restricts
The policy in question is the application of
the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) on drone exports. The MTCR
agreement, now signed by 34 nations, was established in 1987 to prevent the
spread of unmanned systems that could carry nuclear weapons. Anything carrying
a payload of 500 kilograms that could travel more than 300 kilometers is
considered a “category 1” item under the regime.
Category 1 items are given a “presumption of
denial” for potential export. That can be overruled, but it throws up
roadblocks industry and analysts say are an unintended consequence of an
otherwise useful ballistic missile anti-proliferation treaty.
“The issue is, was the MTCR actually intended
to cover this technology we have today?” asked Rachel Stohl of the Stimson
Center. “I think as we’re trying to look at a holistic export control reform,
export rules for UAVs, we have to put [it] in context while not undermining the
important nonproliferation tool that is the MTCR.”
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