U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bender launches a Raven surveillance drone from near the Afghan village of Baqwa. (John Moore/Getty Images)

What happens when you get a war in Afghanistan, a counterterrorist strategy in Pakistan and an international military campaign in Libya that all, in one way or another, rely on drones?

You get a monster industrial base eager to churn out the latest in unmanned vehicles.

And so it is that hordes of defense contractors – and their drones – are descending on the Washington convention center this week for the annual convention of the Associated of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Organizers bill it as the largest display of robotic and unmanned systems hardware in the world.

Sure enough, interest in the gathering seems to be rising.  Two years ago, organizers say, the trade show had about 325 exhibitors. Last year: just over 450. This year: more than 500. Among the top draws at this year’s confab are Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, and Ken Gabriel, the deputy director of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

There’s little doubt that unmanned vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles, in particular, represent a growth industry, even in tough fiscal times for the Defense Department. But the policy issues surrounding drones are decidedly more complicated.

Just ask Dennis Blair.

If you’re at the conference this week, we’ll see you there. And if you’re not, here are some good drone reads from The Post archive:

Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities

Privacy issues hover over police drone use

With Air Force’s Gorgon Drone ‘we can see everything’

Increased U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killing few high-value militants