Singapore: They are deadly, hard to detect
and fast becoming one of the most sought-after weapons in the
air defence industry.
Global demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better
known as drones, is heating up as armed forces invest in new
systems to boost their ability to carry out reconnaissance and
strikes without putting soldiers` lives in danger.
Propelled by a rise in Asian defence budgets, annual
global spending on UAVs is forecast to almost double from the
current USD 5.9 billion to USD 11.3 billion over the next
decade, according to US-based defence research firm Teal
The Asia Pacific is the second largest buyer after the
"Almost every country in the region is trying to get their
hands on drones or develop their own ... Thailand, India,
Singapore, Japan, Australia, Korea," said Jon Grevatt of IHS
Jane`s Defence Weekly.
Home to more than half the world`s population, Asia also
has some of the biggest potential flashpoints from North
Korea, to the South China Sea, South Asia and Afghanistan.
"UAVs are necessary in this age when you want to win wars
and at the same time you want to have less casualties," said
Tommy Silberring, who heads the drone division at Israel
Aerospace Industries (IAI).
IAI, which pioneered the development of UAV technology for
the Israeli military in the 1970s, was one of several defence
manufacturers showing off drones at last week`s Singapore
Drones have played a crucial role in recent conflicts,
with the United States relying on them to strike targets in
the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan that are strongholds of
Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.
This burgeoning demand has spurred Asian manufacturers to
enter the market, which has long been dominated by Israeli and
"We want to be in the unmanned arena but we are
selective because there are already so many big players in the
industry," said Patrick Choy, vice president of international
marketing at ST Engineering, a Singapore-based defence
India is similarly modest about its Rustom-1 drone, a
model of which was on display at the trade fair.
"Our main priority is to enhance the current capability of
the Rustom... we have no intentions of exporting it," said
Parimal Kumar, a senior official from India`s Defence Research
and Development Organisation.