This article is more than 1 year old

Is it a drone? Is it a balloon? Whatever it is the US warns locals not to let them fly in Iran

Some of this kit is ending up in Russia

Uncle Sam issued a stern warning about the threat posed by Iran's development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — and reminded American companies to "be vigilant" in not supplying components needed to build these bomb-dropping drones and spy balloons.

In a joint advisory on Friday, the US Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, and Treasury alerted persons and businesses that Iran remains keen on procuring technologies it needs to build UAVs that it can't produce domestically. British universities were recently accused of developing such technology for Iran and the US is keen to make sure the same thing doesn't happen in its homeland. 

And, as a friendly reminder, the Feds want you to know that providing any of these goods and services to Iran puts US companies and individuals in violation of sanctions against the theocracy. 

"Industry should be aware of its compliance obligations due to the threat posed by the extensive overseas network of procurement agents, front companies, suppliers, and intermediaries Iran uses to obtain UAV components, all of which employ a variety of methods to evade export controls and sanctions," the government said [PDF].

Iran has been stockpiling both armed and unarmed UAVs over the past 10 years and since August 2022 has also allegedly "transferred" hundreds of these to Russia. "Moscow has used these UAVs extensively to strike critical infrastructure during its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine," the advisory noted.

In addition to aiding Moscow, Iran also supplies these goods to Tajikistan, and to the radical Islamic Houthis, who have used them to strike Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

The Feds also list some specific US-made products that Iran uses to develop these flying weapons. This includes several electronics products: transceiver modules, FPGAs, RF transceivers, microcontrollers, capacitors, memories, amplifiers and other electronic integrated circuits.

Iranians are also looking to buy accelerometers, gyroscopes, inertial measurement units (IMUs), and other navigational sensors, the warning says. Additionally, aircraft spark-ignition and compression-ignition internal combustion piston engines, associated spare parts, and modules such as flight computers, are in high demand.

"Exporters, manufacturers, and distributors of items listed above should be aware of the importance of carrying out customer due diligence in a way consistent with BIS's "Know Your Customer" Guidance and Red Flags [PDF], and should track to whom they are selling and/or shipping their items," according to the alert. 

"We urge manufacturers that supply UAV-relevant items to establish multiple methods to track such items due to the observed prevalence of methods used to obscure the sources of components found in Iranian UAVs, such as the lasering off of serial numbers and other identifying information," it added.

The Iran UAV advisory complements the work being done by the Justice Department's Task Force KleptoCapture and Disruptive Technology Strike Force, the DOJ said

Task Force KleptoCapture, announced in March 2022, focuses on investigating and prosecuting violations of new and future sanctions related to the Ukraine invasion and Russian aggression and corruption.

In February, the Justice Department and Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) created the Disruptive Technology Strike Force to investigate and prosecute illicit transfer of sensitive technologies to foreign state adversaries. 

Iran's on this list, along with Russia and China. And in May, US prosecutors announced the Strike Force's first enforcement actions: charges against four people, including a former Apple engineer, in five cases related to technology theft for the benefit of these adversarial nations. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like