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damage so long as the target is destroyed. So why invest in greater discrimination achieved through expensive and perhaps inaccessible sensor technologies? If there were going to be an arms race in drones, it would take place here, where the technology is not already widely available — but the parties who want it are limited. The real arms race in drones will take place, not around drones themselves, but in counters to drones. Drones are effective, in their current form, against non-state actors, terrorists, low tech insurgents, because they have...

at least seeking access to them, in the case of the UN), both surveillance drones and, at least in some cases, weaponized drones. According to AFP, the UN is seeking surveillance drones to monitor the DR Congo-Rwanda conflict – the UN hopes that the United States or France, or perhaps other countries, will make them available: UN officials stress that there could be no speedy deployment of drones in DR Congo as MONUSCO would need equipment and training. But it would be a major first in UN peacekeeping operations. A...

as those against the Haqqanis). CIA drones used in Pakistan in support of Afghanistan counterinsurgency operations against safe havens for Afghanistan Taliban. CIA (or even military) drones used in Pakistan in support of Pakistan government counterinsurgency operations against the Pakistan Taliban, separate from the fight in Afghanistan. CIA drones used in counterterrorism against AUMF targets (ie Al Qaeda or associated forces, in the context of participants in the current non-international armed conflict (NIAC), as legally defined), whether in Yemen, Somalia, or conceivably elsewhere. CIA drones used either as part of...

been using their machines to carry out targeted in various conflict zones. Italy has also deployed drones since 2005 and it has sought to arm them, but it remains unclear whether its drones are weaponized. Germany has been deploying unarmed military drones for more than a decade, and leases drones that have the potential to be armed. There has been an ongoing debate in the German Parliament as to whether to arm their drones for the past several years, with the current Defense Minister in favor of doing so. Belgium...

than solitary drones. Drones fly at high altitudes, always above 10,000 feet and in most cases above 20,000 feet, making them very difficult to see with the naked eye and usually inaudible to the human ear. Manned aircraft almost always fly in formation, and seldom operate alone. Drones are not capable of flying in formation and often operate alone. Lastly, manned aircraft like the Pakistani Air Force’s (PAF) F-16’s typically employ 500 lb. laser guided bombs or Maverick air-to-ground missiles that carry warheads of between 125 and 300 lbs. In...

mere handful of minutes that manned aircraft can remain over the target. But those with whom I discuss drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan stress the importance of front-end, integrated intelligence that involves human intelligence on the ground, signals intelligence, and surveillance over long periods from drones, as surveillance and not weapons platform. Moreover, the suddenly broad acceptance of drones by those who, in my experience, have heretofor treated them with suspicion is also, ironically, a rejection of that other critique of drones: that they make resorting to force too...

has been revised down from 7 in the past month or so). This would amount to a civilian casualty rate of less than 1.5 percent, meaning that only 1 in 65 casualties caused by drones over that 19-month period was a civilian. This speaks to drones effective discrimination between civilian and military targets that no other weapons system can possibly match. In spite of this success, there are many critics that continue to claim that drones are illegal, immoral and/or ineffective, largely because they cause too many civilian casualties and...

In comments to my post below about the strange new respect for drones, Kevin queries whether I’m arguing a strawman. The “circles” that he and I both move in — academics, NGO activists, and so one — he suggests, have never seriously questioned that drones are more discriminating. I don’t suppose that this is one of those arguments that goes anywhere, so I don’t have much more to add than this. Since I first published on this back in 2008, I’ve done upwards of fifty conferences, panel discussions, debates, presentations,...

armed drones. As more countries within Europe and around the world acquire and begin to use armed drones in military operations, these controversies and challenges will likely multiply. This underscores the need to address long-standing calls for increasing transparency and accountability for the use of armed drones. Transparency is valuable to all actors involved in using armed drones, as well as to other stakeholders, such as civil society and communities that are affected by uses of force from armed drones. As Dorsey noted (p. 27), ‘[t]ransparency requires providing relevant, accessible,...

way, to keep in mind that the typical function of drones today is surveillance, not firing missiles, which is actually a very tiny subset of what drones in total do. That is even more true if you add in the small, soldier-carried aerial drones used in tactical surveillance – (literally) tossed by a soldier into the air to get it flying. It is also true that much research is underway to make drones more useful as a firing platform in the future.) Unmanned aerial vehicles are smaller and have less-extensive...

[Andreas Schueller directs the International Crimes and Accountability program at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). ] The current German coalition agreement says that the German government “categorically rejects extrajudicial killings, also by drones”. Nevertheless, the German armed forces leased drones that can be armed – yet without the respective weapons. The German government declared that it will employ these drones only in accordance to the law. At the same time, German courts and many German academics (here, here and here) have assessed the government’s views on...

all cause more displacement and disruption of the local civilian population than drones do. It is important to emphasize, as Obama did yesterday, that drones are the best alternative, not only for American servicemen whose lives will be saved, but also for the local civilians on the ground. The clearest evidence supporting the contention that drones are now the best option in the ungoverned areas of Yemen and Pakistan are the three websites that have attempted to aggregate the casualties caused by drones. The three sites are the New America...