Armed Drones

The use, development, and proliferation of armed drones has risen significantly in the last decade. Armed forces and non-state actors have increasingly relied on these unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft given that the systems can operate for long periods, cost relatively little, and can be deployed with no risk to the pilot. Drones gained notoriety for their use in targeted killing operations outside areas of armed conflict. Such use has produced high numbers of civilian casualties and has been characterized by limited transparency and a lack of accountability for the states deploying them. The United States is currently leading the development of international standards on armed drones, but civil society organizations as well as the European Forum on Armed Drones, a civil society network, are pushing for broader, human rights-based discussions within the UN framework.

Photo of an armed drone.
Credit: US Air Force, 2008