As others have reported, the war in Ukraine is one of the first large-scale conflicts fought mostly using unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”) and drones. Due to the recent Ukrainian defensive gains, it is becoming clearer that UAVs will continue to be essential to Ukraine’s defense against Russia. At the same time, it is also clear that Russia also views access to UAS as a key part of its war strategy. Additionally, there is no shortage of individuals and companies that will use false or misleading information to exploit this reality and try and obtain U.S. products in violation of export control laws.

As with other defense articles, there are a complex set of rules and regulations controlling the export of UAVs to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands. Unlike other “traditional” defense articles, however, many newer types of UAVs are considered “dual use” items, with equally important applications for civilians and militaries. The complexity of the export control rules surrounding UAVs also means that it may not be immediately clear exactly which export rules apply to a particular UAV technology.

There are a few ways exporters can avoid the potential pitfalls stemming from operating in a high-risk environment and under such a complex set of rules:

  • Take care to diligently examine the products you are trading to determine the appropriate export classification. This will allow you to better understand the specific licensing requirements tied to the export of the products.
  • Carefully vet customers and sales partners to ensure they are both trustworthy and prepared to comply with U.S. export control requirements.
  • Add additional compliance language in commercial sales documents to aid in preventing these critical technologies from being diverted into the hands of bad actors.

These tips represent just a small sample of the options exporters have in firming up their approach to export compliance. Be sure to follow our new blog, Traveling Spear, for updates as our team continues to analyze the situation in Ukraine and other emerging export compliance issues.

Note: The information contained on this page does not constitute legal advice, and reading the information does not automatically start an attorney-client relationship. The details are meant to serve as general information, and are not comprehensive of all legal requirements or situations.