The unmanned strike aircraft of the U.S. are much sought after by other nations—which means there's a massive export opportunity. Now, the country has decided is to permit the widespread sale of armed drones to allied countries.

The new policy was announced yesterday, after no shortage of internal debate an review. The Washington Post suggests that "allied nations from Italy to Turkey to the Persian Gulf region clamor for the aircraft." In the past, the U.S. has only sold its drones to the UK.

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It's a difficult balancing act. On one hand, drones are expensive to design, test and then run—as the Air Force has found out. The Pentagon recently scolded the organization for wasting $9 billion of tax-payer cash on Reaper drones. Exporting home-grown military technology is a lucrative business, and will go at least some way to recouping the heft military spending on unmanned vehicles.

Some, however, will wonder if equipping other countries with armed drones is a good idea. Allied nations aren't necessarily as trustworthy as the UK, with many of them demonstrating chequered pasts when it comes to human rights and political freedoms.

For whatever it's worth, the new policy describes principles that foreign governments must adhere to if they're to be able to purchase the aircraft, though. The countries will have to agree that the drones will only be used for national defense or situations where force is permitted by international law. And even then, requests to purchase drones will apparently be examined on a case-by-case basis.

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Regardless of how the sale are negotiated, though, the news will certainly mean one thing: the world's skies will increasingly be filled with U.S. drones. [Washington Post]