Risky Business: Businesses Keeping Pathways Open For Iran To Procure Engines, Components For UAVs Bound For Russia

(New York, N.Y.) – Warnings from the Biden administration that Russia is seeking to acquire additional military UAVs from the Islamic Republic for the war in Ukraine should prompt more serious action from businesses worldwide to sharply reduce the risk of their products being misused.

In January 2023, Quebec-based Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) told reporters that it had concluded an investigation into how its engines, designed for light civilian aircraft, came to be found in Iranian made drones downed over Ukraine. While BRP ceased direct sales to Iran in 2019, it maintained ties with “a Tehran-based engine maintenance and overhaul company, Mahtabal,” through at least last year. The company determined that “the part was not sold to Iran or Russia by any of BRP’s authorized distributors,” leaving open the possibility that BRP engines were removed from civilian planes, as company officials initially suspected.  

Despite this ongoing risk, ultralight aircraft manufacturers, aircraft engine manufacturers, and aerospace companies appear to be engaged with Iranian firms, including an Iranian avionics commerce website, Persia PilotShop, a sister firm, Persian Aviator Co., or Nour Aviation.

While some responsive and responsible companies like Sweden’s Blackshape, Italy’s Blackwing, and Flight Design of Germany have debunked Persia PilotShop’s claims about an official business relationship, others have failed to refute the Iranian firm’s assertions. It therefore remains unclear if German firms Auto Gyro GmbH and COMCO IKARUS GmbH; Latvia’s Pelegrin Ltd and its TARRAGON aircraft brand; Poland’s Celier AVIATION GLOBAL Sp. z o.o; or the Czech Republic’s AEROPILOT s.r.o or JMB Aircraft are shipping merchandise into Iran. BRP engines are widely used in the civilian aircraft sold by these companies.  

“The engines and components of Iranian military UAVs sourced from products intended for civilian use are well-documented, particularly since Tehran began providing Moscow with drone technologies,” said UANI Research Director Daniel Roth. “Businesses should understand it is in their immediate self-interest to debunk false claims of commercial ties, cut relationships off if a relationship with an Iranian firm does exit, and stipulate that unauthorized sales to Iran are not permitted. These are common sense steps that would protect their reputational integrity and potentially innocent human life.”  

Should companies fail to withdraw voluntarily from the Iranian market, EU legislators could introduce measures that would ban the export of dual-use goods such as engines and other aerospace merchandise to Iran, similarly to how bans were imposed on Russia.