As the year draws to a close against a background of increasing drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan – between 50 and 60 people were killed in a number of separate drone strikes in Pakistan’s Khyber region this week – the development of drone wars continues right around the world. Three of the key themes that have emerged on this blog in the past six months –proliferation, the push to increased autonomy and drones crashes – are illustrated by developments this week.
Proliferation: As was clear through the Wikileaks cables, every dictator and military leader has the latest drones on their Christmas wish list and many companies, are happy to oblige. This week we learned that Israel are bidding to sell various drones to Chile and India while Peru has acquired micro drones from Israeli company Innocon.
The push to greater autonomy in drones has also been a regular theme this year and the year ends with Northrop Grumman announcing that its X-47B combat drone is about to make its first flight. The X-47B is designed to fly from an aircraft carrier and unlike current drones in service, the X-47b will fly mostly autonomously once aloft and, indeed its planned that it will be able to refuel in-flight autonomously.
Prangs! Finally the Drone Crash database illustrates how often drones, for all their supposed ‘smart technology’ sometimes simply fall out of the sky. Two more examples have been added to the database. Firstly two Australian drone crashes in Afghanistan have recently been revealed while a Mexican drone crashed in Texas last week. The drone, an Israeli made Orbiter mini UAV, crossed the border into the US and then crashed into the backyard of an El Paso resident.