Rather unbelievably, Drone Wars UK is ten years old this week. Although I had been researching and writing about drone warfare earlier, Drone Wars UK as a blog, an organisation, an entity came into being on 1st June 2010. In the decade since, the use of armed drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles – or ‘remotely piloted air systems’ as we are pressed by some to call them – has (ahem) taken off. As we and many others feared and predicted, the use of these systems has become virtually normalised and are spreading across the globe, and yet this is still only, I would suggest, the beginning of the drone war era.
While the existence of Drone Wars UK does not, of course, coincide with the existence of drone warfare itself – unarmed UAVs have been used in warfare in various ways for decades with the first air strike from a drone taking place soon after 9/11 – the past decade has undoubtedly seen drones established as a key tool of modern warfare.
We had a public event planned for this week, bringing experts together to discuss and reflect on drone warfare – and with cake to mark the anniversary – but sadly due to Covid-19 restrictions, that has had to be postponed till later in the year. In the meantime, I answered a few questions about our work over the past decade and our future plans in a video interview, and I’ll be sharing a short series of reflections, taking stock of where we are now, what has changed over the past decade, and where we are likely headed in the near future. As always, we rely on donations to keep our campaign work going. If you are able to make a contribution to our 10th birthday appeal we would be extremely grateful.
Reflections #1: Are ‘drones’ (still) a thing to focus on?
Throughout the past decade, with perhaps the exception of an 18-month period in 2012/3, we’ve been repeatedly told that drones are not something to focus on.
At the very beginning this was because they were thought too obscure and irrelevant to what was happening at the time and there were other issues around peace and security to work on. As time went on and the use of drones became more prominent, we began to be told that drones were in fact no different from other forms of air power so there was little point on limiting our work to simply drones. Later still, as the media coverage of the US use of drones to carry out targeted killings in Pakistan and Yemen grew, and the UK followed down this path, Read more