EU, Asia to Spend Big on Drones to Catch Up With US

Image: EU, Asia to Spend Big on Drones to Catch Up With US Northrop Grumman Global Hawk drone

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 07:20 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The United States will continue to be the largest user and main provider of unmanned aerial vehicles in the coming decade, The Washington Times reported.

European and Asian countries are under domestic business pressure to catch up. As they do, the percentage of European spending on drone development will increase relative to that of the United States, according to a study by Forecast International, which consults for the aerospace and defense industries, the Times reported.

The United States will spend roughly $11 billion on research and development out of a projected $28.7 billion in worldwide investment over the next 10 years, the study estimated, according to the Times.

The Pentagon's main supplier of military drones, Northrop Grumman, projects continued production worth $2.58 billion, according to Forecast International.

Europe is expected to spend some $5.2 billion on drone development. China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand will spend even more, closer to $7.7 billion. The Chinese, who already have more than 1,560 military drones, continue to invest heavily in unmanned aircraft systems, said Larry Dickerson, national security analyst at Forecast International, the Times reported.

Neighboring countries are worried about China's intentions, he said.

South Korea is working on "suicide drones" that can be detonated after passing through enemy airspace and reaching their target, the Times reported.

Other countries, including Japan, are interested in non-military industrial-use unmanned helicopters. Taiwan's program is constrained by difficulties in getting hold of technologies from abroad, according to the study.

While the U.S. fleet becomes more sophisticated, America's military lead will likely narrow as more countries spend to build up their drone capabilities, the Times reported.

"The U.S. market will experience a cooling and eventually settle at a lower level of activity – but one that is still far higher than it was prior to 2001," according to the Forecast International study.

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