The use of military drones by Israel and the US has caused a revolution in how conflicts are fought and severely challenged our concepts of international law.
European nations were caught off guard and have rushed to catch up with their competitors, fearing becoming dependent on outsiders for military technology.
This detailed report on European involvement in the race toward autonomous warfare, explores the myriad government programmes designed to implement the ‘roadmap’ developed by the drones industry.
The authors explain that hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent by European governments (including Britain) furthering the commercial objectives of large arms companies and aerospace organisations.
They also show how the move towards drones has not been promulgated in open, democratic institutions, but largely behind closed doors. So called ‘public consultation’ hasn’t been intended to involve citizens meaningfully, but to get them to consent to decisions that have already been made, largely in secret, between faceless European committees and industry.
Moreover, EU funding bodies have financed moves by industry to find non-military uses for drones (‘dual use’), recognising that military uses alone wouldn’t sustain the arms industry in a time of declining military spending. Nor would purely military uses gain the acceptance of citizens who associate drones with insidious, secretive targeted killings.
Eurodrones Inc. also reveals many instances where the European public has paid the market development costs of giant corporations intent on finding new ways to justify tenuous drone development programmes.
Thus initiatives to further the civilian drone ‘roadmap’ have been hidden in programmes with military objectives. For example, the British-Israeli Watchkeeper drone programme has funded technology to allow large drones to fly in civilian airspace, an innovation that paves the way for new uses of drones for surveillance and commercial activities above our heads.
As for what we can do, the authors call on citizens of the EU to take back democratic control of the institutions of the EU, and to defend international law, stopping the human right abuses of pre-emptive drone attacks. They also call on us to stop subsidising drone manufacturers and beef up export controls to restrain the proliferation of drones to repressive regimes.