Global Arms Transfers:Visualize Half a Century of Drone Trade

(1963 - 2014) 



About the Project: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) maintains a database on Global Arms Transfers. We downloaded their data and focused on the exchange of drones. We aggregated the amounts to calculate statistics. We've imported it in this Silk. So now you can query the information, explore patterns, and visualize data interactively. And, of course, share it all in a few clicks on social media, or embed the (responsive) graphs online. Sift through this resource for stories that highlight:

  • Time Trends: How many (reported) drones have been traded globally since the 1960s? How much is the number increasing?
  • Biggest Suppliers and Receivers: Which countries have received most drones? Which are the biggest global suppliers?
  • Relationships: Which are the largest drone trade flows? To which nations did your country supply more drones? 
  • Drone Models: Which drone are most imported globally? And by each country?
  • Individual Trade Deals: Details on 174 arms trade deals of drones.

How to Use This Silk: Browse the charts and maps below. Click "Explore" anywhere on the site to go into visualization and filtering mode. Search for individual pages or entities in the top search box.

2005-2014: 786 Drones Transferred. Or 40% the Total Trade Since '63

Number of Known Drones Traded

Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters.

In SIPRI's Arms Transfer database, the first drones trade deals trace back to 1963. They were for the exchange of Canadair CL-89 surveillance drones. CL-89 drones were launched from trucks and looked like missiles. 

"The flight pattern was programmed and allowed for the flight to the target areas, a run while the cameras or sensors recorded, and the return to the recovery site. On arrival at this calculated position, the motor cut and a drogue parachute was deployed. [...] A camera or sensor, dependent on the mission, could be fitted to the CL-89, and multiple units to the CL-289. Being a drone meant that it flew a programmed course and was not under any form of external control. In CL-89 the programmed flight path was constrained by the very limited number of 'events' that could be programmed. These events including turns, changes in altitude, sensor activations/de-activations and landing. The programmed flightpath had to be corrected for meteorological conditions." - Wikipedia

Models of First Drone Transfer Deals recorded by SIPRI

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filtersClick on each deal for more details.

UK, France and India are the Biggest Global Drone Importers

Explore the interactive map through the filters. Discover which countries received most drones in a specific year, or from a specific country ("Supplier"). Use the "Weapon Designation" filter to discover which nations received a certain drone model. You can also combine multiple filters.

Map of items imported by each country

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters.

Israel Alone Exported 37% of All Drones Traded in the Last 50 Years

Canada and the U.S. accounted for the next biggest chunk. Overall, 56 countries imported drones from only 17 suppliers. And of these 17 countries, three accounted for 80% of the drones exported: Israel, Canada and U.S. Of the many more countries that didn't export any drones, India, Singapore and Pakistan imported the most. China, Austria and Iran are the only drone exporters that didn't import any UAV.

Total Items Received/Licensed and Total Items Supplied by Country

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Egypt, Romania and Italy Received 70% of all U.S. Drone Exports

In terms of imports, 87% of the drones transferred to the U.S. are from Israel. The remaining share comes from Austria and the U.K. 

Search for patterns and relationships between different countries by tweaking the filters for "Supplier" and "Receiving or Licensed Country".

Total Items Ordered in Each Country Export Flow

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters.

The Strongest Drone Trade Export Route is From Israel to India

In total, Israel exported 185 drones to India. That's the biggest export flow between two countries.

Total Items Ordered in Drone Exports

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters.

In fact, Israel's drone export to India accounts for all of the country's drone imports. These UAV have been ordered through 10 deals, the first one in 1996. As for the models ordered, 108 are Searcher drones and 77 Heron drones.

Change the filters in the following table to explore other relationships.

Details on Israel-India Drone Arms Trade

Click on the headings to sort ascending/descending on a variable. Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filtersClick on each deal for more details.

CL-89, Searcher and Scout are The Most Traded Models

Of the whole volume of drones transferred since 1963, CL-89 have been the most popular. Although this statistics is skewed by the fact that all of the 400 CL-89 exported by Canada have only been traded before 1970.

You can use the filters in the following to discover which models were most imported by a specific country ("Reciever(s)").

Drone Models

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters, or load the whole list of 47 drone models Click on each drone model for more details.

Map of items imported by each country

Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filters.

At Least 16 Armed Drones Exported. All from the U.S. and China

In some cases, SIPRI specifies whether the drones traded were armed. This was the case for at least 5 arms transfer deals. All took place between 2006 and 2014.

Change the filters in the following table. You can interactively explore details on all the 174 drone transfer deals downloaded from SIPRI's databases.

Drone Trade Deals pages

Click on the headings to sort ascending/descending on a variable. Select values from the filters to customize the visualization. Reset them to see the overall statistics. Click "Explore" to transform this into another type of chart, change the variables plotted, add dynamic filtersClick on each deal for more details.

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Refer to SIPRI's Arms Tranfers Database for information on the methodology and sources