2014 Review (Part One) – Drone Wars: The New Normal

arming predatorAs 2014 opened mounting criticism of the US use of drones for targeted killing gave way to a long and significant pause in drone strikes in Pakistan. This together with the imminent withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan gave rise to the possibility that the use of armed drones that we have seen over the past five years might perhaps become a thing of the past, an aberration to be looked back upon and wondered at. Read more

Website revamp and update

Surfing the wwwAfter a busy few months we have revamped the Drone Wars website and updated our datasets. Most obviously we have reorganised our information under a new top-level menu structure.

About Drones’ gives key, basic information about armed drones, their history, and concerns about their use. ‘British Drones’ focuses on the use of armed drones by the UK including our data on UK drones strikes (recently updated) while ‘Ethical and Legal Issues’ looks at the use of armed drones for targeted killing (including a new long overview essay on the issue) and brings together a number of posts about the ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of armed drones. Read more

Rise of the Reapers: A brief history of drones


Part One – the early years

Winston Churchill at launch of De Havilland Queen Bee drone 1941. Copyright Imperial War Museum
Winston Churchill watches launch of a De Havilland Queen Bee drone 1941. Copyright Imperial War Museum

Although some trace the ancestry of today’s drones back to the V-1 rockets (‘doodle bugs’) of the Second World War, or even to the use of hot air balloons laden with explosives in the middle of the 19th Century, the real origins of today’s drones lie in the development of the first recoverable and reusable radio-controlled aircraft in the 1930s. The Royal Navy, looking for aircraft to shoot at for gunnery practice, developed out of the De Havilland Tiger Moth a remote-controlled aircraft dubbed ‘the Queen Bee’. Over 400 of these were built and used for target practice by the Royal Navy in the 1930’s and 1940’s.[1] Similarly (and possibly from this aircraft although that is disputed) the US developed a radio-controlled drone for gunnery practice in the late-30s. Read more

Please support Drone Wars research and campaign work


Like many small organisations Drone Wars is struggling to raise funds for its work of investigating and campaigning against the growing use of armed drones.

In order to raise some badly needed funds we were going to get Chris to run a marathon, ski down Mount Everest and then bungee jump off the Shard.   But then we had a thought.  Wouldn’t his time would be better spent doing the work he is supposed to be doing?

So if you would like to make a donation for Chris not to run a marathon, or go to Everest, or to do a bungee jump, but instead to carry on challenging the drone wars, please give generously!

Drones Week of Action 4-11 Oct 2014

Over the past couple of months we have witnessed drone strikes in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq – and its likely that Syria and Libya may soon join that list. Whether such strikes are being undertaken under the umbrella of a UN resolution or carefully-crafted secret memo its becoming clearer that drones are indeed making it easier for our political leaders to opt to use lethal force rather than diplomatic or political solutions. Read more

Drone Wars: Surveying the home front

Click to download report

Today Statewatch and Drone Wars UK are co-publishing a new report into the use of unmanned drones in UK airspace. Back from the Battlefield: Domestic Drones in the UK written by Chris Jones of Statewatch examines the current use of drones in UK airspace by public and private bodies looking in particular at their use by police and border control authorities. The report argues that it is essential for widespread debate, discussion and democratic decision-making on the issue of ‘domestic’ drones in order to establish acceptable limits on their deployment and use by public authorities, private companies and individuals.

Despite strict Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations that control and limit the use of drones in UK airspace slowly but surely the number of drone operators is increasing. In late 2011 Drone Wars UK revealed that around 50 to 60 annual ‘permissions’ were granted by the CAA to private companies and public institutions to fly drones in UK airspace. Read more