Why we persist in opposing the growing use of armed drones

Campaigners protest outside RAF Waddington, October 2018

Over the past two weeks, campaigners have been in New York taking part in meetings at the UN urging diplomats to control the proliferation and use of armed drones.  Drone Wars UK was one of the more than 50 organisations signing a joint statement released to coincide with the meetings.  Here in the UK, despite freezing wet weather, campaigners also held a protest at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire calling for an end to the growing use of armed drones. Read more

Book Review: Death Machines: The Ethics of Violent Technologies by Elke Schwarz

The ethical concerns raised by Elke Schwarz in her new book, Death Machines: The Ethics of Violent Technologies, help situate the use of armed drones in a deeper discussion of our modern political landscape and point to the issues that must be addressed through substantial ethical reasoning. For those not familiar with political theory and ethics, this book is at times quite dense. Nonetheless, it is essential reading for those working with or on the issue of drones, autonomy and AI to engage with the ever-increasing use of violent technologies, regarding both the physical death they inflict and the ethical death in the wake of their use.

Framed by Schwarz’s biopolitical interpretation of Hannah Arendt’s theories, Death Machines asks how we have allowed violent technologies to become the right choice when dealing with problems that threaten society. Hannah Arendt judged that modernity’s movement towards the efficient management of society, relegated plurality and consequently equality among varied people and beliefs. Read more

“Thinking war is bloodless is a mistake.” Talking drones and remote war with Air Marshall Bagwell.

Air Marshall Greg Bagwell

Air Marshall Greg Bagwell is a recently retired senior Royal Air Force officer who served as Deputy Commander Operations at RAF Air Command.  While being a vocal supporter of the use of armed drones, in his role of President of the Air Power Association he has also argued for greater openness and engagement with the public on air power issues.  Following on from our interview with former RAF Reaper pilot ‘Justin Thompson’, we asked him if he would also be willing to be interviewed on some the wider operational and strategic issues raised by armed drones.  He happily agreed. Read more

Watching, Killing: The Evolution of RAF Drone Warfare in the 21st Century’ – Dr Peter Lee

Dr Peter Lee

Anyone who has conducted interviews with around 60 Reaper drone crew members and given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones will have learned a thing or two about the Royal Air Force’s armed drone programme.  Step forward Dr Peter Lee, a former Air Force chaplain now Director of Security and Risk Research at Portsmouth University, who over the past few years has been undertaking a detailed study into the human dimension of RAF Reaper drone operations.  Dr Lee recently lectured at the Royal Aeronautical Society about his research and his forthcoming book on the RAF’s drone community. Read more

Book Review: ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Drones’

  • The Humanitarian Impact of Drones, edited by Ray Acheson, Matthew Bolton, Elizabeth Minor, and Allison Pytlak,  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 2017

The Humanitarian Impact of Drones is, as Chris Heynes says in the preface, “a most welcome contribution to a vital debate,” chiefly because it extends beyond the legal lens used to consider the rights and wrongs of particular targeted killings, often the criticism which dominates the debate on the use of armed drones. Instead, split in to two parts, the report covers broader humanitarian ‘impacts’ and ‘perspectives.’ It includes its fair share of discussion on the impacts of targeted killings and the legal perspectives on these actions but chapters range from the impact on peace and security and the environment, to gender-based and religious perspectives. Throughout, the chapters are interspersed with case studies from countries or regions, relating to the various topics covered. The report moves between practical, theoretical and legal frameworks to offer a comprehensive understanding of the nature of drone warfare in its fullest sense. Read more

Perpetual war: UK’s armed drones to stay deployed beyond campaign against ISIS

A Ministry of Defence press conference has revealed that as the war against ISIS ends, British Reaper drones are to stay deployed in the Middle East after other UK aircraft return home .  As The Times reported

‘Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, who led the British air campaign against the terrorist group until last month, said that drones and other surveillance aircraft would continue to fly over Iraq and Syria to help local forces guard against the militants returning.,

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