Accidents Will Happen: A dataset of military drone crashes

Forensic experts investigate crash of US Predator near Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Feb, 2016. (Depo photos)

Drone Wars is today publishing a dataset of just over 250 large military drone crashes that have taken place over the past decade (2009-2018). The full dataset is available online here.  This post is a brief summary of the data but there is a great deal more detail in our accompanying report which is available here.

Although there continues to be some disagreement about the classification of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), most adhere to the NATO system which divides them into three broad categories based on weight. Read more

UK ops in Iraq and Syria: Reaper drones likely to play an increasing part says senior RAF officer

The latest response to our Freedom of Information requests on British air and drone operations in Iraq and Syria show a marked decline in UK air and drone strikes in Syria since December 2018. (See our stats page for full update) Altogether, British drones and manned aircraft fired 189 missiles and bombs in the final three months of 2018 compared with 69 in the first three months of 2019 – a drop of 63%. Read more

Will the UK continue to launch strikes against ISIS?

On Saturday (23 March) the Syrian Defence Force announced that ISIS’ last stronghold, the small town of Baghuz on the banks of the Euphrates, had been captured. With that, ISIS’ so-called Caliphate was at an end.

When British MPs voted for resolutions supporting strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, these had specific aims. Firstly, in 2014, strikes were authorised to aid Iraqi security and then in 2015, to eliminate ISIS’ safe haven in Syria. Now, more than four years later, Iraq has declared victory over ISIS, and the so-called ‘safe haven’ for ISIS has been removed Read more

Latest FoI release from MoD shows extent of UK air and drone war in Syria

The rise in UK air and drone strikes in Syria since September 2018 has been laid bare in the MoD’s latest responses to a Drone Wars UK FoI request. The number of British strikes in Syria per month rose to its highest ever amount (75) in December 2018. Overall, the UK launched 244 air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria during 2018, firing 512 munitions. Between 2014 and the end of 2018, the UK has fired more than 4,100 missiles and bombs in a total of 1,925 strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  You can see the details on our stats page here. Read more

General Atomics bring in BAE Systems to lobby for ‘Protector’ drone to fly in UK

Drone manufacturer, General Atomics, hosted an event in London on 24 January in order – as its press release put it – “to recognize UK companies that are contributing to operational systems such as MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and the new MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA program” (which the UK MoD is calling ‘Protector’).

As part of the day, the US company signed agreements with three major UK defence companies: Raytheon, MBDA and BAE Systems.  Raytheon will supply and integrate Paveway IV bombs onto the new British drone while MBDA will integrate and supply it with the new Brimstone missile. BAE Systems, however, will play a wider role, helping to enable the new drone to be flown within the UK airspace. Read more

The Gatwick drone: A taste of the technology

Drones dominated the headlines over the Christmas and New Year period after sightings of one or more commercially available drones closed Gatwick airport to flights for 2½ days, disrupting thousands of passengers. The inability of the authorities to track down the drone operator led to ministers calling in the military with counter-drone technology to give assurances to air operators that it was safe to re-open the airport. This week, Heathrow was also closed for an hour due to the presence of a small drone.

While many newspapers mocked the alleged incompetence of the authorities in not dealing with the situation simply and swiftly, the reality is that drones are a disruptive technology. The ability to use remote-controlled systems to intervene at distance with little or no consequences to the operator is perhaps now coming home to roost. Read more