Armed forces are increasingly using remotely controlled equipment, much of it in the air. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are aircraft either controlled by
pilots from the ground or, increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. While there are dozens of different drones they basically fall into two categories: those that are used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and those that are armed with missiles and bombs.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia have all suffered drone strikes by US or UK drones controlled from thousands of miles away. Palestine has been subject to Israeli drone strikes. While official claims are made for the accuracy of the strikes, there have been high numbers of civilian casualties besides the intended victim. Even in the latter cases, it is the death penalty imposed without even a trial. Worryingly, the number of countries acquiring armed drones is growing.
Drone Wars UK is an excellent source of information on the growing use of armed drones.
Rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield is an unacceptable application of technology. A comprehensive, pre-emptive prohibition on fully autonomous weapons is urgently needed.