Home to roost: drones now operated from the UK

On Thursday 25 April, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that its Reaper drones had finally moved to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire; they had previously been operated from a US Air Force base in Creech, Nevada.  The move to Lincolnshire had been expected for some time after 13 Squadron, a “remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) squadron that will utilise ground control stations to fly reaper RPAS deployed to Afghanistan” were formally stood up on 26 October 2012.  The Daily Telegraph reported that there were 100 trained personnel to operate the drones now based at Waddington.  According to The Guardian, the benefit offered by this transfer was not that more flights would be operational but that, due to the time differences, operators in Waddington could now work in relay with their US colleagues. Continue reading

Oversight, accountability and drones: the case of Northern Ireland

On 11 April 2013, the Policing Board of Northern Ireland endorsed a proposal put forward by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to purchase ‘three types of Unmanned Aerial Systems’, alleged to have a combined cost of £1 million; though during a subsequent debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly, it emerged that a total of nine drones were to be purchased by the PSNI.

The impetus of this purchase is the G8 summit, to be held near Enniskillen in June 2013, and concerns, expressed by the PSNI and others, at the size of the event, the potential for violent protests combined with the ongoing security threat posed by dissident republicans. So extensive is this policing operation that 3,000 police officers from Britain will also be drafted in to Northern Ireland, though under the command and oversight of the PSNI, together with collaboration from the Irish Gardai.

The Policing Board indicated that as well as playing a role in the policing operation at G8, drones will also be used in ‘searches for suspects and missing persons, providing support [for] uniform police officers attending calls, events management and public order situations’.  In this respect, security along the extensive border with the Republic, the location of fuel smuggling and human trafficking, will be improved as will, one imagines, the safety of individual officers in riots. Continue reading

Drones for peace?

The idea of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones for monitoring peace agreements and ceasefires is not new.  Indeed, back in 2006, the only direct death caused by the drone itself, rather than the weapons it was carrying, was deployed by the Belgian attachment to the European peacekeeping force (EUFOR) in Congo.

Most recently, the Ivory Coast has requested that the United Nations utilise drones in response to the reduction of peacekeepers on the ground, due to be cut by one battalion by the summer of 2013.  This follows on from a request, in January 2013 by the UN to use them for similar surveillance purposes in Congo.  A proposal opposed by Rwanda, upon whose border with Congo this drone use would focus.

As with most things, the use of surveillance UAVs is a far more economically viable alternative to ‘boots on the ground’.  For the UN, plagued by a need to cut costs while facing an increase in the number of places its peace-keeping endeavours are required, the use of this technology makes sense.  For example, drones can stay airborne for extended periods of time and thus has an increased capacity for data collection.  However, the use of drones in this context may need to be accompanied by some public education.  A previous drone used in Congo by the Belgians was shot down during landing. Continue reading

Drones in the field: UAVs as a tool for clearing mines

It has been reported that drones (UAV), could be used in efforts to clear minefields in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) Director General has told the Azerbaijan news agency, APA, of plans to use drones to undertake territorial research and discover minefields. Unexploded ordinance represent an ongoing threat to security, from Azerbaijan to Vietnam, Cambodia to Lebanon.  It is possible to use UAVs to discover minefields by analysing changes in the soil around the land mines, as they often cause distinct changes in soil structure. It is believed this can be picked up by instruments and surveillance devices attached to a UAV. The method has been successfully used previously at an ANAMA base in Goygol, in North West Azerbaijan.   The use of drones for such an operation will not only reduce risk to mine clearance personnel (and others) but also, it has been argued, ensures a more thorough and meticulous search of a dangerous area. Continue reading

Drone proliferation – the case of Turkey

Much has been made of the role of drones in the “fight against terror”, most recently the US has developed a new drone base in Niger.  However, less well known, at least in the UK, has been the support by the US to the Turkish government in the provision of drones to monitor Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) activity in northern Iraq.  The PKK have been in negotiations to end the conflict with the Turkish Government since the end of 2012; mid-March saw a prisoner release, which was a crucial step in the process, and a ceasefire was announced at the end of the month.  American support for the Turkish government has been in place for some time; in 2011, the media reported that the US had moved Predator drones to southern Turkey. Continue reading

Welcome to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones’ Blog

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Welcome to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles).  The Group was founded in October 2012.  The purpose of the Group is:

To examine the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) by governments, for domestic and international, military and civilian purposes.

More details about the aims and objectives of the Group, can be found on our About page. We work with a range of civil society organisations, who undertake research, monitoring and advocacy on the use of drones by the UK and elsewhere. Their websites can be found on the side bar.

The APPG holds meetings in Parliament which serve to engage and educate Parliamentarians on the use of this technology.  These meetings are invitation only but the minutes, briefings and reports of these meetings can be found on the APPG meetings page.  The Group uses Parliamentary processes to increase transparency and accountability on the UK’s use of drones, a table collating these responses can be found on the Parliamentary Questions page.  The Group also submitted two Early Day Motions which can be found here.