Restrictions on export are hurting US industry without protecting US technology, said Northrop Grumman chairman, president and CEO Wes Bush.

Bush, speaking at the AUVSI keynote on Wednesday, said that export controls were a significant barrier to the growth of the unmanned systems industry.

Unmanned systems are capable of reaching great potential, he said, including in potentially revolutionary areas in which Northrop is active such as air-to-air refueling and fixed-wing aircraft carrier operations.

"We see these as problems of processing power and systems engineering," said Bush.

"The US leads in this area, and that fact is not lost on others." However, he added, other nations are now developing their own unmanned technologies, partly because they cannot buy from the world's foremost nation.

In recent years nations ranging from industrial powerhouses (such as the UK, Germany, China) to lackluster economies (including Iran and Georgia) have announced UAV platforms with a wide range of capabilities.

"Today the US is struggling to sell UAVs to allies, where other nations are ready to jump in with both feet," said Bush.

Under US export laws, International Trafficking in Arms (ITAR) and the Missile Technology Regime (MTCR), UAV exports are heavily restricted.

Bush used the example of the satellite industry, another heavily restricted technology field, as an example of what could happen. Twenty years ago the US had a commanding lead in virtually all areas of satellite manufacturing and operation. Due to export controls, said Bush, other nations were driven to develop their own capabilities, which in many areas now match or exceed US capabilities. In some cases, satellites are specifically marketed as "ITAR-free," he noted.

Source: Flight Daily News