Drones & autonomous weapons

1 June 2024News in Brief

On 9 April, Drone Wars UK revealed that British armed Reaper drones have secretly been carrying a surveillance pod associated with tracking and killing individuals, using signals from mobile phones, WiFi routers and other devices.

This ‘Outdragon’ capability has been in use since 2019. Drone Wars UK: ‘The use of these systems to hunt and execute individuals who have been put on a kill list is one of the worst excesses of the so-call war on terror.’

More info:…

1 June 2023Feature

Only 10 nations - including UK - don't support a ban

Back in 2018, Drone Wars UK published Off The Leash, a report which we considered to be a ground-breaking study into the development of armed autonomous drones – ‘killer robots’ able to operate without human control.

Our study showed that the British ministry of defence (MoD) was actively funding research into technology supporting the development of autonomous weapon systems. We mapped out the…

1 February 2023News

Swarm of AI-controlled drones tested on Salisbury Plain in December 

Drone Wars UK warned in January that two recent trials of AI-controlled military drones showed the urgent need for international controls over the development and use of ‘killer robots’.

In January, the British ministry of defence revealed that it had carried out trials on Salisbury Plain in December of a ‘swarm’ of Ghost drones controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) which was updated during the drone’s flight.

In the US, drone manufacturer General Atomics also carried out…

1 December 2022News

Campaigners explore how to challenge emerging military technologies

Peace campaigners gathered at Birkbeck University on 12 November for the ‘Future Wars: The Shape of Things to Come’ day conference.

Organised by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Drone Wars UK, the event focused on looking at the danger of emerging military technology and how campaigners can challenge and oppose new developments in this area.

Professor Paul Rogers set the scene for the day in an opening contribution made via video.

A panel of expert speakers…

1 October 2021News

US whistleblower gets 45 month sentence

On 27 July, former US air force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison by a court in Virginia, USA.

Hale, 33, had plead guilty to violating the Espionage Act by sharing government documents relating to targeted drone killings and other abuses in the ‘war on terror’.

Hale spoke in court before sentencing, saying: ‘I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenceless.’ He said he shared what ‘was necessary to dispel…

1 December 2019News in Brief

British drones are more likely to target individuals than infrastructure, according to Chris Cole of Drone Wars UK.

British Reaper drones launched two-thirds of the 110 UK strikes on Islamic State fighters in the open in the last two years. The UK’s other strike aircraft, the Tornado and the Typhoon, were generally used to launch attacks on buildings of various kinds.

Just over half of all UK Reaper attacks (51 percent) were targeted at individuals on the ground…

1 December 2019News in Brief

In September, it was revealed that the US air force (USAF) had awarded a contract to a US weapons company to develop an artificial intelligence and machine-learning surveillance system for a killer drone.

The Agile Condor system is supposed to independently (‘autonomously’) identify pre-defined targets of interest and then send information back to a human decision-maker before any action is taken.

Peter Burt of Drone Wars UK says the intended change to the Reaper killer…

1 October 2019News in Brief

In July, the MoD issued development contracts for what may be a new killer drone, carrying out air-to-air or air-to-ground strikes.

According to Drone Wars UK, the new escort drone will fly alongside or slightly ahead of an RAF plane, sharing information via the main aircraft.

Possible roles for the ‘Mosquito’ include: surveillance, electronic warfare (jamming radars) and laser guiding weapons onto targets.

In a separate programme, the MoD is developing ‘…

1 February 2019News

Arms trade protested in London and Brussels

Monique D’hooghe demonstrates in Brussels on 29 November. Photo: Vredesactie

On 23 January, there was a noisy ‘Stop arming Saudi’ protest outside an arms dealers’ dinner at the Grosvenor House hotel in central London.

There was a sit-down blockade of the hotel, as guests filed into the aerospace, defence & security group’s annual dinner. The guest of honour was former home secretary, Labour MP Alan Johnson.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: ‘Many of…

1 August 2018News in Brief

In mid-July, the planned replacement for Britain’s armed Reaper drones, the Protector, made the first crossing of the Atlantic by a medium-altitude, long endurance remotely-piloted aircraft. (The first drone to cross the Atlantic, in 1998, was on auto-pilot.)

The Protector (aka MQ−9B SkyGuardian) will be able to fly further and carry more weapons than the Reaper. It has a wingspan of 79 feet, and is due to enter service in the UK in the 2020s.

The drone took off from,…

1 June 2018News

Drones are becoming central to 21st century warfare, new report says

From an obscure technology originally used for target practice, drones have become almost central to the way in which armed forces fight wars and project power in the early 21st century.

The US and Israel played a leading role in the development and use of remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones. Both countries have manufactured and operated unarmed and armed systems since the early 2000s. While these two nations monopolised the field for more than a…

1 April 2018News in Brief

This March saw the fifth annual ‘Fly Kites, Not Drones’ week of action in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, with kite-flying in Aberdeen and Edinburgh in Scotland; and many events in England: at the drones base, RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire; in Yorkshire at the spy base at Menwith Hill, and in Bradford, Harrogate and Huddersfield; in Hastings, East Sussex; and in Leicester, London and Leintwardine.

Fly Kites Not Drones is a joint effort from Voices for Creative Non-…

1 December 2017News in Brief

On 7 October, the Drones Campaign Network held a demo outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which controls Britain’s armed Reaper drones, to mark 10 years of British involvement in drone warfare. www.tinyurl.com/peacenews2685

1 December 2017News in Brief

The latest Nuclear Resister records anti-drone action across the US.

On 25 September, seven members of Upstate Drone Action were arrested at Hancock air force base in New York state. Hancock operates MQ-9 Reaper armed drones overseas.

Dan Burgevin, Ed Kinane, Rae Kramer, Harry Murray, Julienne Oldfield, Mark Scibilia-Carver and Ann Tiffany were delivering a citizens’ war crime indictment when arrested.

Upstate Drone Action also blocked the main gate…

1 October 2017News

Anti-drones campaigners to stand trial on 24 November

‘Justice for the Elbit 5 — Stop Arming Israel’ demo at Aberporth test-flying site for UK-manufactured Israeli drones on 13 September. This action was in solidarity with five activists appearing before Cannock magistrates court, Staffordshire, charged under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 for their part in shutting down the Elbit drones factory in Shenstone on 6–7 July. Charges were dropped against three defendants, while the trial of the remaining two…