A model of Boeing’s Horizon X drone. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Boeing sees “enormous potential” to supply drones and other unmanned aircraft to governments in the Middle East for defence purposes, as policymakers work to enhance their defence capabilities.

Mark Ballew, director of sales and marketing for international government services at Boeing Global Services, said the company is in talks with countries in the region about modernising their existing defence platforms.

“There’s also going to be an increased need for unmanned aerial vehicles and protection from unmanned aerial vehicles,” Ballew said. “If you look at what our compact laser weapons systems are, there are expectations on how to protect against small drones that could be impacting harbour areas or supply lines.”

Ballew was talking to Gulf News on the sidelines of Idex in Abu Dhabi, where Boeing released its forecast for the defence services sector, projecting growth in the market to a value of $96.3 billion (Dh354 billion) over the next 10 years from this region.

That trend is driven by increased missions around the world — including those related to peace missions — and increased proliferation of drones. Ballew said governments are looking at both how to defend against drones and how to utilise them in areas that may be unsafe for humans.

“Drones and autonomous systems are going to be the next wave. That’s clearly something that Boeing sees as a future technology,” he said.

During Idex, Boeing did not sign any specific deals, Ballew confirmed, but engaged in talks with customers about its services business. The company currently has no outstanding defence orders from the UAE, but is in talks with the government on its services business.

Away from the Middle East, Boeing said it believes it is also in a “solid position” in the US as defence spending continues to rise, and more so with increased demand for autonomous systems. Earlier this week, Boeing was awarded a $43 billion contract from US Navy to build four unmanned submarines, according to media reports.