The Drone Wars drone crash database has been updated with a further nineteen crashes of large (Class II and III) military drones; thirteen since the beginning of 2020 and six from 2018/19 only recently revealed. While there have been many claims and counter-claims of drones shot down in Syria, Yemen and Libya, we continue to include only crashes/downings that have been verified by photographs or video. Recording the crash of large military drones is an important means of monitoring the proliferation of these systems as well as documenting their inherent risk – see our report Accidents will happen – for more details. Read more
The third of our twice-yearly updates details new operators and other significant developments around the proliferation of armed drones. For our complete list of states operating, or close to operating, armed drones see Who Has Armed Drones?
France undertakes first drone strikes
As has long been expected, the French Reaper fleet started to undergo weaponization in October 2019, with Jane’s reporting that this process will continue to run until Nov 2021 under a contract worth $17.87m. A mere two days after completing a first test launch with its new missiles, the French air force carried out its first drone strike in Mali. The strike, on 23 December, was part of an operation that reportedly killed 40 ‘terrorists’. A further drone strike in Mali on 19 January was reported by the French Ministry of Defence, killing five alleged armed militants. This represents a clear escalation in the use of force. Read more
November 2019 saw seven civilian casualties incidents from drone strikes in four different war-zones illustrating the growing spread of drone warfare. The seven strikes between them are thought to have killed 41 civilians including 11 children.
Proponents of the use of armed drones often argue that drones are better at warfare as they can sit above the ‘fog and friction’ of war and therefore limit the harm to civilians as they have a better view of the ground. The reality, however, is that drones appear to be transferring the risk of warfare away from combatants onto the shoulders of civilians.
These seven strikes in the month of November are just a snapshot of the impact of drone warfare on civilians. However, the likelihood is that civilians will continue to be killed unless there is progress at the international level on controlling the proliferation and use of armed drones. Read more
It’s been a year since we published Drone Wars: The Next Generation, which gave our assessment of who is operating armed drones. This update adds four new States to those with the ability to operate large MALE or medium sized armed drones, as well as an update on significant exports, use, new models and proliferation controls over the last year. Read more
Over the past few years States, international organisations and civil society groups have expressed concern about the increasing proliferation and use of armed drones. To illustrate what is happening, Drone Wars has compiled details of the use of armed drones in the first three months of 2018. Due to both the lack of transparency by operators and the difficulty of reporting strikes from the remote locations where they often occur, this survey is undoubtedly incomplete. In addition the fact that multiple nations are operating armed drones to launch strikes against differing groups in Syria (US, UK, Israel, Turkey and Iran) and Yemen (US, UAE and Saudi Arabia) makes attribution and accountability for strikes there almost impossible. Nevertheless this short survey (1 Jan 2018 – 31 March 2018) gives something of an insight into the use of armed drones by multiple operators to launch strikes in multiple countries. Read more
A new wave of users have launched drone strikes either on their own territory or across borders over the past 15 months.
While the majority of attention on armed drones has focused on US use (and to some extent on the UK and Israeli), growing proliferation of these systems has meant that a number of other countries have acquired or developed armed drones and are beginning to regularly use them to launch strikes.