DEADLY BOOM: Era when only a few countries had drones coming to rapid close
Multinational groups rushing to get unmanned planes to global market
Where there's money to be made - even if it makes the world a more uncertain place - various interests rush only to quickly to the fore. The production and manufacture of drones, unmanned aircraft capable of surveillance deliver lethal payloads, is rapidly springing up all over the world. Some say that the United States is to blame.
A Seeker 400 drone, manufactured by South African company Denel Dynamics, flies over Cape Town Stadium.
Some members of the international community say the proliferation of the lethal remote-controlled flying machines will change the face of counterterrorism operations and warfare itself - and not for the better.
While supporters of military drones argue that they are an essential tool against terrorists hiding in remote areas, groups such as Reprieve categorically rejects the notion that drones are precision weapons, saying many civilians have been killed.
In any case, the era when only three nations had drones is swiftly drawing to a close. Only three countries are known to have drones; the U.S., the U.K. and Israel. It's estimated that there are only currently around 1,000 armed drones worldwide.
That's all changing, and very quickly. China also is believed to have developed weaponized drones; the U.S. has said it would arm drones operated by Italy; and France and Germany also have decided to acquire them, according to arms trade experts and published reports.
As an example of the opportunistic companies rushing in to fill this need, a government-owned arms manufacturer near Pretoria, South Africa, is preparing to test an armed drone which it hopes will begin selling soon to governments around the world.
Denel Dynamics, the company in question, says the armed version of the Seeker 400, which will carry two laser-guided missiles, will enable so-called targeting at a range of up to about 155 miles.
"These are not combat systems, they are foremost reconnaissance systems," Sello Ntsihlele, executive manager of UAV systems for Denel says. He added: "(But if) you speak to any general, show him the capability, he will tell you, 'I want to have munitions.'"
According to Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institute, at least 26 countries have surveillance drones of a size or type that have been or could be armed, and roughly 20 countries are trying to either develop or acquire weaponized drones.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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