Thousands of military buyers will descend on London next week to be wooed, wined and dined by military salesmen from the world’s largest arms companies. Many of those buyers will arrive with the same item at the top of their shopping list: drones.
Since the last Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair in 2009, drones have become the latest ‘must have’ weapon and companies large and small are plying their drone wars (sorry, wares) at this year’s show. Of course the word ‘drone’ is unlikely to pass any self-respecting military salesman’s lips; ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV) or preferably’ Remotely Piloted Aerial System’ (RPAS) are the de-rigueur terms when it come to striking deals – at least in public.
Recognising the huge desire for drones, DSEi have created the ‘Robotics and Unmanned Systems Showcase’; a special “football pitch-sized” dedicated arena that will be used for demonstrations of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and UAVs during the show. DSEi Exhibition Director, Duncan Reid, said,
“The Unmanned Systems market is an area of tremendous growth and our feature area will provide both exhibitors and visitors with a real opportunity to interact, see some of the latest technologies and gain a deeper understanding of how these types of robots can help in the battlespace.”
As part of ‘the show’ DSEi have teamed up with the QinetiQ West Wales UAV Centre (WWUAVC) to produce what they call a “scenario-based programme of indoor unmanned systems demonstrations”. What this will be is not exactly clear at this stage but it sounds worryingly like salesmen will remotely piloting drones over Wales from the DSEi arms fair.
Drones on display at the show will include BAE Systems’ autonomous Mantis drone, the Global Hawk from Northrop Grumman, the new Watchkeeper drone built jointly between Israeli company Elbit and Thales UK; and the Dominator drone (presumably as close as they could name it to ‘the Terminator’ without infringing copyright) from Diamond Airborne Sensing. Strangely however, there seems to be no sign of General Atomics or its Predator, Reaper or Avenger drones at this year’s DSEi.
However it is not just the big boys that will have their drones out. Many smaller companies are also getting involved from Middlesex University students and their ‘SQ-4’ drone to companies like Sky-Futures who “recruit UAV system experts and sells UAVs in the military and civilian markets” and like to boast they come to “DSEi via Sandhurst, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
For more details about what is happening at DSEi this year – and how to get involved in the protests against it, visit Stop the Arms Fair.