In the latest of our six-monthly updates, Drone Wars has added another 35 crashes of large military drones to the Drone Crash database. 21 of the crashes have occurred since the last update in September 2015, with a further 14 previously unknown US military drone crashes in 2014 and 2015 revealed by the Freedom of Information work in the US by the Washington Post. Drone Wars UK has been tracking crashes of large military drones (Class 2 and 3) since 2010 as a means of researching the proliferation and use of large military drones.
Of the 21 large drones known to have crashed over the past six months, approximately half (10) were known to be US drones, with three belonging to India, two to Pakistan, and one each for Iran and the UK. The operators of four other large military drones that crashed are currently publicly unknown.
Although it is certainly possible that the US operated some of the drones that we currently attribute to unknown operators, the number of large military drones crashed by non-US operators is increasing and again points to proliferation of these systems. Of the 120 drone crashes identified in the five years between 2007 and 2011, 104 (87%) were US drones. Of the 50 drone crashes added to the database since January 2015, only 62% were identified as being operated by the US.
The number of countries where large military drones are crashing is also on the increase. In 2015 such drones crashed in 17 countries, with the location of 3 US drones remaining classified. The US confirmed to the Washington Post that one of its drones had crashed in Libya after ISIS posted photographs on social media.
The number of countries operating armed military drones continues to increase with Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran using armed drones to launch strikes over the past year in addition to the US, Israel and the UK. Out of those four additions to the armed drone user ‘club’ only one, Iran, has joined the US, Israel and the UK in using its armed drones to launch strikes outside its own territory.
Overall the Drone Crash Database contains details of more than 250 large military drone crashes since Jan 2007, operated by at least 18 separate military armed forces, which have crashed in 29 different countries.
Summary of location of Class 2 and 3 military drone crashes 2007 – 2015
|Cyprus (inc. off coast)||1||1|
|Djibouti (inc. off coast)||4||1||1||4||10|
|Libya (inc. off coast)||1||1||2|
|Off West Africa||1||1|