Jefferson Morley writes: Stark Aerospace of Mississippi is perhaps the only foreign-owned company with FAA permission to fly a drone in U.S. airspace. Based in the town of Columbus, the home of Mississippi State University, Stark is a subsidiary of the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries — not that you could tell from looking at the company’s website, executive leadership or affiliations. You have to go to the Mississippi secretary of state website to learn that two of Stark’s three directors are Israelis.
So too with the America’s drone industry. The Israeli influence is not visible but it is real, documented and extremely relevant to the future of drones in America. If you want to know how drones may change American airspace in coming years, just look to Israel, where the unmanned aerial vehicle market is thriving and drones are considered a reliable instrument of “homeland security.”
“There are three explanations for Israel’s success in becoming a world leader in development and production of UAVs,” a top Israeli official explained to the Jerusalem Post last year. “We have unbelievable people and innovation, combat experience that helps us understand what we need and immediate operational use since we are always in a conflict which allows us to perfect our systems.”
Israel’s drone expertise goes back to at least 1970, according to the UAV page of the Israeli Air Force. Mark Daly, an expert on unmanned aircraft at Jane’s Defense in London, notes the Israelis were the first to make widespread use of drones in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, when the aircraft were used to monitor troop movements.
Now, as the Arab media and Western reporters such as Scott Wilson of the Washington Post have reported, the Israeli Defense Force uses fleets of constantly hovering drones to intimidate and control the Arab population in the Gaza Strip. (The residents call these drones “zenana,” which both sounds like the aircraft’s distinctive buzz and is Arabic slang for a nagging wife.) The IDF regularly uses drones for targeted assassinations of suspected militants, saying the drones enable them to use “precision strikes” to avoid hurting civilians. Yet as Human Rights Watch has documented, the drone strikes during the Gaza War killed scores of children who were nowhere near armed combatants.