Who controls the export of drones?

Image: MQ-1 Predator drone. Foto U.S. Air Force photo

September 10, 2015

Though unmanned systems and in particular drones have many benefits when used for peaceful purposes, there is also a potential downside. How do we prevent armed drones or specific drone-technology from ending up in the wrong hands? Current arms export control rules turn out to be insufficient to achieve this goal, PAX warns in its new report Unmanned and Uncontrolled.

The use of drones is becoming more and more popular; not only within armed forces but also among civilians and companies. Over 80 countries have included drones in their military arsenals, a small number of which has armed and deployed them in conflict zones. Companies use small drones more and more often controlling or inspection purposes. Among journalists, drones are popular for aerial photography. The defence industry is investing billions in these developments, and companies consider drones to be a profitable market.

But there is a downside to this development. The military application of drones, especially the current use of large armed drones by the US for extrajudicial executions, is highly controversial. Countries like China and Russia are eager to sell their military drones, while other states like Iran is already exporting drones to Syria, Sudan and groups like Hezbollah. Armed drones can easily end up in the wrong hands.

Civilian drones
Moreover, groups like ISIS and Hamas are aware of the added value of using civilian drones for military operations, and are actively deploying drones for reconnaissance missions or to coordinate attacks. Intelligence agencies across the globe have expressed concerns about the  use of civilian drones for terrorist attacks with explosives or chemicals.

Drone export control
Existing arms export controls are currently failing to provide an adequate response to the increasing use and export of drones. In the report Unmanned and Uncontrolled PAX provides a number of recommendations to strengthen the control on export of drone-technology and calls for a wide debate over the use of armed unmanned systems in and outside conflict areas.

Read the report Unmanned and Uncontrolled.

More information on PAX’s work on drones.



Get involved with our peace work.
Subscribe to the PAX Action Alert.