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Press release: New report lifts the lid on the development and spread of armed drones around the world

LONDON (20 September 2013) – A major new study from Open Briefing, Remote Control War, reveals that more than 200 different unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are in use or in development by China, India, Iran, Israel, Russia and Turkey, with 29 of these being unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), otherwise known as armed drones.

The authors, Rob O’Gorman and Chris Abbott, have identified key developments in drone technology and conclude that the lines between missiles and drones at one end and drones and aircraft at the other are increasingly blurred. Furthermore, several countries are seeking to develop a range of UAV countermeasures in response to the proliferation of drones to state and non-state adversaries.

Military planners face numerous challenges with the rise of armed drones. Chief among them, O’Gorman argues, ‘is the development of sound operational doctrine in order to successfully integrate these systems’ capabilities.’ The speed and extent of UCAV developments is ‘far surpassing the imaginations of military planners.’

Abbott, Executive Director of Open Briefing, noted that ‘armed drones are being used for missions that would not likely be approved if more traditional aircraft systems were being used,’ adding that ‘the use of remotely-piloted systems has sidestepped international law.’ Abbott argued, ‘The use of armed drones is viewed as a grey area when, in fact, no such ambiguity really exists. They are weapons platforms. The usual rules should apply.’

Chris Cole, the founder of Drone Wars UK, said, ‘Open Briefing’s Remote Control War shines a much needed spotlight on the development and use of drones by a raft of countries beyond the usual suspects and shows that the development of armed drones is spreading rapidly.’

Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, said, ‘Armed drones may have become weapons of choice for the United States and Britain but what this report shows is that they are already proliferating across the world. The implications of this are huge for international security but have been almost entirely ignored so far.’

The report was commissioned by the Remote Control Project, a pilot project initiated by the Network for Social Change and hosted by Oxford Research Group.

Open Briefing is the world’s first civil society intelligence agency. Staffed by a team of intelligence, military, law enforcement, government and media professionals, they provide a range of intelligence and research services to concerned citizens and non-governmental organisations.

Download press release and notes to editors | Read briefing paper