New ‘Protector’ armed drones to begin flying in UK – Join the protest on 13 November


The UK’s new armed drones – known as  ‘SkyGuardian’ internationally, but renamed ‘Protector’ by the UK –  will begin test flights in the UK next month after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) agreed to new airspace rules around RAF Waddington.  The MoD will undertake “a small number of time-critical proving flights” of the new drone ahead of a longer test and training programme due to begin in late 2023/early 2024.

The first of an initial batch of sixteen MQ-9B SkyGuardian was flown into RAF Waddington on-board a transport aircraft on 30 September.

According to Jane’s:

While the Protector fleet will be based at and operated from RAF Waddington, it will spend most of its time overseas in the same manner as the Reaper fleet. A future operational scenario could see the Protector ferry itself from RAF Waddington to a location in the Middle East or Sub-Saharan Africa, arriving in theatre to be met by a team that would arm and prep it for its mission.”

The UK is replacing its fleet of ten Reaper drones with up to 26 of the new ‘Protector’ drones.  The newer drone has further range and longer endurance, as well as being capable of carrying more weapons.  It is also capable of autonomous take-off and landing.

Why we continue to challenge the use of armed drones

As we have argued over the past decade, while remote-controlled drones are presented as enabling ‘pinpoint’ accurate air strikes which enable us to ‘take out’ bad guys without risk to our own forces, the reality is somewhat different. While the UK continues to claim that only one civilian was killed in the thousands of British air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, journalists and casualty recording organisations have reported large numbers of civilian casualties from US and UK air strikes.  In addition, as they can be deployed with no or few boots on the ground, making it much easier for political leaders to choose to use armed force.

Armed drones have also enabled a huge increase in so-called ‘targeted killing’ including killing of individuals far from battle zone.  While some argue that it the policy of targeted killing that is problematic, it is hard to deny that the practice has hugely increased with the advent of armed drones. While the US is at the forefront of such operations, the UK too has used its drones to carry out a number of such killings including the killing of a suspected ISIS leader in Syria in December 2022Read more

Future War: The Shape of Things to Come

A day conference of workshops, discussion and debate on the impact new technologies
will have on future conflicts – and the challenges facing peace activists.

While terrible wars currently rage in Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia and elsewhere, preparations for future wars using new technologies is also underway.

New technology can be a spur for great social change, offering tremendous possibilities.  However, innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous systems and biotechnology are also being used in the military and security realms in ways which will directly and indirectly affect global peace and security. Scrutiny of these developments and building towards peaceful ways to solve political conflicts in ways which do not threaten people and the environment is crucial.

This open public conference organised by Drone Wars and CND  will bring together expert speakers and campaigners to discuss these developments and debate how we can work together to challenge wars today and in the future.

Book your free tickets here 

Supported by Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Peace News and others.  Read more

Pandora’s Box: Reflecting on 20 years of drone targeted killing

Online webinar: 3 November 2022, 7pm (GMT)

November 3rd this year will mark 20 years since a remotely-controlled drone was first used to carry out an extra-judicial killing ‘beyond the battlefield’. While drones had previously been used in warzones, this was the first time a drone had been used to hunt down and kill specific individuals in a country in which the US was not at war.

Since then, an untold number of such operations have taken place across the globe with a significant number of such strikes also causing serious civilian casualties.  Despite huge controversy the United States continues to engage in such killings (even while arguing publicly such actions are ‘limited‘) and the practise has now spread amongst other drone operators including the UK, France and Turkey.

In this important online webinar, Drone Wars has invited a number of experts to mark 20 years of drone targeted killings, to offer some reflections on the human, legal and political cost of the practice and to discuss how we can press the international community to ensure that drone operators abide by international law in this area.



  • Agnes Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International. Ex Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (2016-2021)
  • Chris Woods, Founder of Airwars, author of ‘Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars’
  • Bonyan Jamal, Yemen-based lawyer and Legal Support Director with Mwatana for Human Rights, Yemen
  • Kamaran Osman, Human Rights Observer for Community Peacemaker Teams in Iraq Kurdistan

Chair:  Chris Cole, Director, Drone Wars UK


Tickets for the webinar are free and can be booked at the Eventbrite page here.


See also  ‘Twenty years of drone targeted killing

Join us to protest the Cornwall space launch and #KeepSpaceforPeace


Monday 24th October: 7pm, Online briefing meeting – Click here to register 


Saturday 29th October, Noon – 2pm: Protest outside Newquay Airport

St Mawgan, Newquay TR8 4RQ
Meet at West Car Park entrance. Public transport details here.  Car parking costs £5 for 2 hours.

The first space launch from UK soil will take place sometime during the first two week of  November with a ‘launch window’, granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) opening on  October 29.

Unlike traditional vertical launches, the Launcher One rocket will begin its flight strapped to Virgin Orbit’s ‘Cosmic Girl’ aircraft, a converted Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.  Once the plane reaches 36,000ft the rocket will separate and then ignite, with its engines firing it through the earth’s upper atmosphere till it reaches orbit.

While the launch is being presented as a step forward for the civil space industry – with Virgin’s commercial space ambitions being heavily promoted – the rocket will launch two military satellites (that we know about) alongside commercial ones: Prometheus-2 and Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment (CIRCE).  The mission is being led by RAF Squadron Leader Matthew Stannard.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin told the Defence Space 2022 conference in London earlier this year that Prometheus-2 is a CubeSat intended as a test platform for monitoring radio signals including Global Positioning System (GPS), conducting sophisticated imaging, and paving the way for a more connected space-based communication system. It was built in collaboration with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), In-Space Missions, and Airbus Defence and Space, with DSTL owning the satellite.  Read more

EU borders agency must improve information access arrangements following complaint by Drone Wars UK

The European Ombudsman has ruled that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, should reform its access to information arrangements following complaints about difficulties in obtaining information made by Drone Wars UK and German open government platform FragDenStaat.

The Ombudsman’s ruling follows a two year investigation which examined how Frontex deals with requests for public access to documents, and particularly requests submitted by email and through civil society access to information websites such as FragDenStaat and  At present Frontex only accepts communications through its own difficult-to-use communication portal and  refuses to communicate by e-mail or third party information access websites – a complicated and unnecessary hurdle for anyone seeking information about the organisation.

As well as investigating the portal requirement and the ability to submit and to receive documents by e-mail the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly also inquired into concerns about restrictions imposed by the copyright of Frontex documents, long-term accessibility of documents through the portal, and Frontex’s requirement for those requesting information to submit personal identification and the lack of routes to allow this.

Border Drones

Drone Wars UK submitted an information request to Frontex in July 2020 as part of our ‘Crossing A Line‘ investigation, in which we highlighted the growing use of drones for border control operations and the threats to human rights which this poses.  Read more

Webinar: ‘For Heaven’s Sake: Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space’

Click to open

Tuesday 23rd August 2022, 7pm.

Drone Wars UK and CND are co-hosting a webinar to examine the UK’s militarisation of space.  The webinar builds on the briefing the organisations co-published in June (right).


Dr Jill Stuart is an academic based at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is an expert in the politics, ethics and law of outer space exploration and exploitation. She is a frequent presence in the global media on the issue and regularly gives lectures around the world.

Dave Webb is former Chair of CND and long-time peace campaigner. He has played a leading role in CND’s work on missile defence. He is a member of the Drone Wars Steering Committee and co-author of the new report ‘Heavens Above: Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space.

Bruce Gagnon is founder and Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He is author of numerous  articles on the issue as well as a regular speaker at conferences and meetings. He is an active member of Veterans for Peace.


Dr Kate Hudson is General Secretary of CND. She has held that post since September 2010, having previously been Chair of the campaign since 2003. She is a leading anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigner and author of CND at 60: Britain’s Most Enduring Mass Movement.


Although the UK’s space programme began in 1952, until recently it has had very limited impact. However, as the commercial space sector has expanded and the cost of launches has decreased, the UK government is now treating space as an area of serious interest. Over the past two years we have seen the setting up of UK Space Command, the publication of a Defence Space Strategy outlining how the MoD will “protect the UK’s national interests in space” and the announcement of a portfolio of programmes for developing space assets and infrastructure. Over the summer of 2022, the UK MoD plans its first UK space launch from the UK.

Concerns include a spiralling space ‘arms race’; the environmental impact both on earth and in space, and the risk of  an accident sparking an armed confrontation.

Tickets for the webinar are free and can be booked at the Eventbrite page here.