We have already had to run up the white flag on the US made thousand-dollar UAV. But hold on to your hat, Mildred, we might be staring down the barrel of losing the whole damn drone circus. I know you’re probably thinking, “How the heck did this happen when all the K Street drone experts and FAA kept saying that the US was leading the way?”
One of the goals of an unmanned advocacy group (worlds largest or other) worth its salt and its IRS 501 c6 designation should have been some lobbying on behalf of its members for ITAR reform. Instead, you have knockoffs of US systems sold cash and carry to almost every despotic regime in and around what I like to call the “shooting” Overseas Contingency Operation Theater. Variants (past and present) include but are not limited to: Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and finally Operation You Snooze You Lose. In this case, it appears disruption gave way to sloth and self-enrichment at the expense of industry and national security.
Repeated warnings went out to folks at various US government posts as well as publically about the homegrown Chinese and Iranian drone programs circa 2011.
However, these warnings were usually met with scorn and ridicule instead of concern or an inclination to investigate. “The Chinese will never be able to produce anything as sophisticated as a UAV!” True, we had a few decades of a head start on these jokers, but, through a comedy of errors, they got the better of us and all so that a few folks could get a paycheck.
All of the leading-the-way got us an ongoing “DAC and Pony” show while the Chinese are working the “One Belt and One Road” show which includes export the Wing Loong and Rainbow (CH 4). Saudi Arabia’s King Salman agrees to a shiny new factory for Chinese hunter-killer aerial drones in the Middle East as part of a 65 Billion USD Pot O’ Gold at the end of the CH-4 Rainbow. Maybe that 82 Billion USD AUVSI industry forecast was for the Chinese UAS market?
The CH-4 is already being used by Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Myanmar (the artist formerly known as Burma), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Zambia. This little honey (CH-4) has purportedly recorded outstanding performance in anti-terrorist attacks in Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Pakistan for 20% of the retail price of a Predator, and that is not just some old-fashioned who’s working my sphere of influence, okey-doke.
The peanut gallery had better not start with that “Chinese junk doesn’t work stuff,” lest we forget that is what we heard about the consumer stuff, and it works pretty darn well and at a kick butt price point. Just think Johnny; you may have been a beta tester for future military systems.
Now we are left to debate the numerous hurdles in the way of effective Counter-UAS safeguards. It is all whistling past the graveyard in my estimation, ten years of hardcore denial about a technology, capabilities, intentions, and potential geopolitical threats. Free advice, for the foreseeable future, VIP’s should stay close to cover. ;-)
Who doesn’t like adding insult to injury? We’ve moved into the VC desperation phase where the industry leaders are joining together in a chorus of Kumbaya with the manned aviation groups et al. to put more regulations on the RC hobbyist. We have more hollow assurances that UAS innovation will not suffer. The only innovation I see coming out of that dreary plan would be ways for lobbyists to continue bilking their clients out of limousine money and more rules that the FAA cannot or will not enforce. Spoiler alert: ID and Tracking (proposals thus far) and the blind eye for the scofflaw guy aren’t viable solutions.
Does anyone know if DoD had any success in opening the “put the genie back in the bottle” office at the Pentagon?
@thedronedealer on twitter to get the goods daily!