Peace Drones

United Nations are increasingly deploying drones in peacekeeping missions Drones is the common name for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), aircrafts characterized by the absence of a human pilot...

United Nations are increasingly deploying drones in peacekeeping missions

Drones is the common name for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), aircrafts characterized by the absence of a human pilot on board. Their flight and their “actions” are controlled by the computer on board under the remote control of a navigator or pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. They have been controversially debated: no one can deny that these machines are born for war purposes or missions defined as “dull, dirty, or dangerous”. Some remember the first “drones” used in the history of humanity: inflatable balloons loaded with explosives which Austrians used to attack Venice back in 1849. Nowadays these aircraft are perfect machines able to perform long-duration missions reaching hundreds of kilometers from the base, nearly invisible to human and mechanic eyes. IAs opposed to what often happened in the past, military usage of UAVs is also developing civilian uses such as those in agriculture, filming and most recently, Amazon’s idea to use drones for shipping.


It is no surprise that the use of drones for war purposes has generated a lot of debate. The controversy can be summarized schematically: on the one hand, there is the widespread view among many governments and military hierarchies based on the justification given by the war on terrorism and the right to self-defense under international law. On the other hand there is the widespread view among NGOs, the United Nations (which have clearly defined these types of attacks as”illegal under the International Law”), political and (a few) military and the majority of the public opinion that, outside of an armed conflict, this kind of attacks are illegal. They also counter the idea of ​​”self-defense” because one cannot prove, for example, that the extremists active in northern Pakistan or Yemen constitute an imminent threat to the security of American territory. As well as the idea that performing targeted killings in foreign countries (sometimes without asking permission or even without notifying local governments) in response to the attacks of 11 September 2001 is at least questionable.


In January 2013 the Security Council of the United Nations, following a request by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, approved the use of drones in the mission MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Just to be clearer: they are “unarmed”. This word is repeated to excess whenever the subject is drones used by the blue helmets. Actually the term”drone” is not even used most of the time, it is replaced by the term: “Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle”. These 5 “Falco” drones, produced by the Italian company Selex ES are not equipped with weapons of any kind. and have a range of about 200km, therefore quite limited.

The leaders of operation MONUSCO are thinking of creating another base control to the North of the base of Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo- DRC The purpose of the “peace drones” is to monitor the activities of armed rebel groups, trace the locations of weapons and collect information. The DRC is the first test in the history of the drones in peacekeeping missions: a mission among the most difficult deployed by the UN. The commander of UN peacekeepers MONUSCO, the Brazilian Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, has no doubts about the usefulness of the drones to support the action of his forces also to see if a village is a village or a hideout for rebels, thereby protecting civilians. The German Martin Kobler, the head of the mission, stated: “Here we have the task of neutralizing the armed groups; you cannot do it without intelligence. Furthermore, (drones) also have a psychological effect: everyone knows that they are flying.” One of the advantages of the use of drones is their “discretion”; they are silent and therefore they can perform monitoring activities in the middle of the night without been scouted, which would be impossible with a helicopter.

However, they do have some limits: the first is the restricted range of activity; a second is the challenge posed by Mother Nature, for example in the dense jungles or forests impenetrable even for the high-definition cameras, infrareds and lasers equipped.

The general enthusiasm that accompanied the use of drones in the DRC pushed the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous. to propose to the UN Security Council the deployment of “Unarmed UAVs” as part of the mission MINUSMA in Mali (Multidimensional Integrated United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali).

The Malian government gave green light. The Government of South Sudan, for example, did not. To avoid falling into the same mistakes of others one must always knock before entering in someone’s house.

Especially if the goal is to bring peace in.

Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS as Fundraising Manager. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
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