28 Oct 2014

Drones to play key role in UK defence strategy

Summary: The UK Government has announced that it is to increase its use of military drones in both Iraq and Syria as part of a stage in the country’s defence strategy.

The growth in the use of drones by the UK mirrors that of the US, where the Pentagon has requested a $59.7m increase in its drone-purchasing budget for 2015.

The purchase by the US Air Force of 12 new MQ-9 Reapers, which previously replaced all the F-16 fighters of the 174th Attack Wing, is a sign that the US military believes in the future of drones.

For firms which are ahead of the curve in future technologies, there could be lucrative opportunities in supplying to governments internationally in areas such as unmanned vehicles and platforms in the coming years.

The UK’s military reputation, diplomatic influence and extensive experience in arms control mean that it is well placed to help secure a new process for the use of drones across the globe.

There have been some controversies surrounding the use of drones, particularly regarding the ethical implications of replacing human judgements with computer programming and in the number of civilian casualties sustained in previous drone operations.

It is expected that the MOD is to approve the further use of drones while recognising these controversies and while attempting to circumvent them.

It is hoped that through high standards of legal accountability, drones can be a practical and efficient addition to Britain’s military capabilities.

On the issue of the use of drones in military surveillance and operations, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“This is about looking at the nature of the conflict, looking at the nature of the assets we have, and thinking: how can we best deploy those to support our efforts to protect the UK and keep British people safe?”