Will Israeli UAS export boom continue?

Israel is the largest exporter of unmanned air systems (UAS), according to international consulting company Frost & Sullivan. What must it do to keep its leading position? 

Frost & Sullivan says Israeli exports in the field have reached $4.6 billion over eight years, and are expected to grow at 5-10% a year until 2020.

The data shows that Israel is the world’s largest exporter of UAS in terms of volume, variety of systems and the number of countries where these items were sold during the past decade.

The total sales volume includes products, services and licensing to produce these products in other countries. The figure accounts for nearly 10% of the total volume of Israel’s defence exports, and this figure is expected to rise in coming years. 

The main reason for the increase estimated by Frost & Sullivan is a decision by some countries not to rely on the US as a weapons supplier.

Eran Flumin, Frost & Sullivan CEO in Israel, said that the scope of Israeli defence exports is likely to grow. He added that the country’s companies continue to sign strategic partnerships with foreign firms while investing in aggressive marketing in regions – such as Africa, Asia and South America – where demand for UAS continues to grow.

The company expects UAS demand growth and continued delays in the easing of the US government’s defence exports policy will enable Israeli companies to increase their exports until 2020.

Europe accounted for about 50% of Israeli UAS exports between 2005 and 2012. More than half of that volume, about $1.25 billion, relates to the Watchkeeper project, associated with the British Army, involving a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Thales. 

About 33% of total exports were intended for Asia-Pacific, while US sales were 3.9%.

Frost & Sullivan identified and analysed 20 Israeli companies that are involved in the UAS market. This list includes Aeronautics Defense Systems, BlueBird Aero Systems, Elbit, Gilat Satellite Networks and more.

The data is very encouraging for the Israeli UAS industry, but it is obvious that it will have to work hard, not only on sales, to keep that position. 

One of the main problems is the inability of the different manufacturers to co-operate, which creates fierce competition. In some cases this competition has resulted in the loss of the potential client.

The export boom is, in many ways, like a diet – it’s often easy to lose weight; it’s much harder to keep that weight off. 

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