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Israel is world's largest exporter of drones

Israel is the world's largest exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles in terms of number of systems sold earning a whopping $4.6 billion in sales during the last eight years, excluding a major deal with India for the upgrade of unmanned aircrafts, according to a study by a business consulting firm.

world Updated: May 20, 2013 08:43 IST

Israel is the world's largest exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in terms of number of systems sold earning a whopping $4.6 billion in sales during the last eight years, excluding a major deal with India for the upgrade of unmanned aircrafts, according to a study by a business consulting firm.

Frost & Sullivan business consulting firm in a study have noted that UAVs, or drones, sales constitute nearly 10% of Israel's total military exports, Haaretz reported.

Unmanned equipment exports are a relatively volatile market, the report said.

Israel had $150 million in UAV exports in 2008, a figure which increased substantially in 2009 to $650 million.

Exports of the small surveillance planes peaked in 2010, a record year for drone sales, to $979 million, the consulting firm noted.

The sales since then has dropped with UAV exports in 2011 slumping to $627 million, and in 2012 further to $260 million, the report said.

Frost & Sullivan noted that this last figure does not factor in a major deal signed with India for the upgrade of unmanned aircraft.

If that deal were to be included, it would boost the average annual export figures in the sector by about $100 million, it added.

Israel's average overall military exports over the past eight years have been about $6.1 billion a year.

Israel is considered a powerhouse in the field of unmanned aircraft, primarily due to the Israel Air Forces' impressive squadrons of UAVs.

These fleet includes Eitan, which boasts a wingspan of up to 26 meters, and the Hermes 450, which according to foreign reports can be armed to carry out targeted killings from the air.

Just over half of Israel's UAV exports from 2005 through 2012 were to Europe, according to the report, with a particularly large number of aircraft supplied to Britain's Watchkeeper UAV program, a joint project of Israel's Elbit Systems and the French multinational firm Thales.

Watchkeeper aircraft are based on Elbit's Hermes 450 UAV. Drones were also sold to Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain, the report said.

A third of the exports from 2005 to 2012 were destined for the Asia-Pacific region, including Azerbaijan and India. About 11% of the foreign sales, totaling $508 million, were to customers in South America.

The United States accounted for a mere 3.9% of Israel's UAV export sales from 2005 to 2012.

UAVs are not only being used for military purposes but also to maintain internal security in many countries.

Israel's overall military exports are expected to grow in the next few years as Israeli firms continue to sign new orders with foreign customers, Eran Flumin, who heads Frost & Sullivan's Israel operations, said.

Israel's unmanned aircraft are meanwhile being aggressively marketed in markets where demand is growing, such as in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and South America, he said.