WASHINGTON — 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 overseas sales.
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.