recommended reading

The Democratization of Drone Warfare

The pan-European stealth combat drone demonstrator Neuron is seen at the Istres air base unit, near Marseille, southern France.

The pan-European stealth combat drone demonstrator Neuron is seen at the Istres air base unit, near Marseille, southern France. // Claude Paris/AP

The awesome power to attack from above, unseen and out of harm's way, was once the stuff of science fiction. It became reality in the early 2000s, when an American fleet of ominously named Raptors, Predators, and Reapers brought U.S. military superiority into the 21st century. But the U.S. isn't the only kid on the block with militarized drones anymore.

American drones remain leagues ahead of the competition when it comes to stealth technology and weaponry, but the rest of the world is catching up. As conversations about the morality and legality of drone warfare rage on in the U.S., UAVs are edging toward the mainstream.

Drones—or the more-sterile "unmanned aerial vehicles," as the government prefers that you call them—have been around, albeit without weapons, for quite some time. The U.S. used remote-controlled aircraft in bombing missions during World War II and unmanned planes to take photos over Vietnam. In the 1990s, drones began to stream video feeds back to their controllers. But after an unarmed surveillance drone caught glimpse of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2000, the inevitable happened, and the first weaponized drone, a Predator, took flight over Kandahar two years later.

In the 12 years since, only two countries other than the U.S.—Israel and the United Kingdom—have launched drone-mounted missiles, but the technology is quickly proliferating. "Within the next 10 years, every country will have these," Noel Sharkey, a robotics and artificial-intelligence professor at the University of Sheffield, told Defense One last year. As of 2011, more than 20 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa were developing armed drones. Many more have drone surveillance programs.

American drones are already sharing the skies with non-allied UAVs in the Middle East, where they fly the most. Iranian Ababil drones—just one model of an extensive line of Iranian UAVs of various capacities—are patrolling the skies over Iraq alongside American ones.

On Monday, Israeli forces shot down a drone that was launched from Gaza. Hamas claimed responsibility for the drone, hinting at the possibility of sending more. This wasn't the first time Israel downed a UAV near its airspace: In April 2013, a drone launched from southern Lebanon, possibly by Hezbollah, was intercepted by Israeli F16s.

Domestic opponents of drone warfare are agitating for limitations on drone strikes and targeted killings. But as the technology proliferates and UAVs become a standard part of every country's arsenal, it looks as if drones are here to stay.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.