Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito

Remember, back in November 2016, when Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) handed over to visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev a drone worth $52 thousand belonging to Volcani Center researchers, and when Ariel noticed how very interested Medvedev had been in this drone, he told his staff to deliver it to the Russian PM as a gift?

It was the scandal du jour and then a few more jours, when the Obama administration wanted to know if US made technology was onboard the gifted drone. US embassy diplomats contacted Israel’s defense, foreign, and agriculture ministries, as well as the prime minister’s deputy national security advisor, after having read about the Agriculture Minister’s generosity in his rare bout with diplomacy.


Well, today, seemingly out of the blue, TASS reported on Tuesday that Russia is considering more than 50 requests for the delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles abroad. Tass quoted Russian presidential aide for military and technical cooperation Vladimir Kozhin.

“Yes, we are planning to increase the [foreign market] share,” Kozhin said, adding that “work is in progress on more than 50 requests [for the drones]. I cannot say that we are the leaders in this area today – those are the United States and Israel, but Russia will be sure to catch up at some point.”

Volcani Institute staff were shocked and even irate at this grab-from-above of their and the US proprietary technology. Volcani senior staff member Moshe Reuveni said at the time that “aside from the damage caused by giving a device costing hundreds of thousands of shekels, and the damage to our image, there is also the obvious damage caused by freezing agricultural research.”

Also, there’s the damage caused by Russian technicians who likely reverse-engineered the drone and started producing it with a little Russian sticker on the wings.

In Ariel’s defense, the Russian UAV industry, which is led by a company ZALA Aero, located in Izhevsk, has been around since at least 2003, so it’s not as if the Habayit Hayehudi just passed the atom bomb secrets to the KGB. Nevertheless, in the future, when Minister Ariel wishes to impress a high level foreign dignitary with his generosity, we recommend steak.


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