Armed drones

Camera plane while targeting objects Camera plane while targeting objects © Photo by Main_sail on iStock

What are the armed drones?

Armed drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry aircraft ordnance for targeted airstrikes. Armed drones have prompted raising concerns in the international community, following the increase in their employment in the past decade. Particularly the United States has increasingly employed armed drones in counter-terrorism attacks in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and has been accused several times of having produced unnecessary civilian casualties by wrongfully targeting civilian facilities and events. 

How is it affecting civilians?

Being unmanned, remote-controlled, and cost-efficient, the use of drones has increased particularly for targeted killing operations even in areas outside of armed conflicts and are increasingly employed also by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups. Armed drones have become a concern for humanitarian disarmament advocates, having produced high numbers of civilian casualties and lacking transparency and accountability for states and actors employing them. 

What is the international community doing about it?

There is no express prohibition under International Humanitarian Law nor  international convention prohibiting or limiting  the use of armed drones, however, the United States is currently leading the development of international standards to regulate their employment. Nonetheless, civil society is strongly advocating for a discussion on the issue within the framework of the United Nations. In particular, the European Forum on Armed Drones, a civil society network, has called upon the European governments to recognize the dangers posed by drones by articulating clear policies regulating their employment. The organization has requested these governments to prevent their complicity in unlawful drone strikes by providing data used to track down targets; ensure transparency through the sharing of information; establish accountability for states causing civilian harm though drone strikes and to establish a mechanism to control drone proliferation. 




Author: Carla Leonetti

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