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Gogarty, Brendan; Robinson, Isabel --- "Unmanned Vehicles: A (Rebooted) History, Background and Current State of the Art" [2012] JlLawInfoSci 2; (2012) 21(2) Journal of Law, Information and Science 1

Unmanned Vehicles: A (Rebooted) History, Background and Current State of the Art



This introductory overview is an update to the original précis paper in JLIS vol 19(1) by Gogarty & Hagger. It provides a contemporary summary of unmanned technology in use at the time of publication. Legal analysis and commentary from the original précis has been removed. Comments and responses by authors in this edition should be taken to refer to the original précis paper.

1 Introduction

In this paper we will examine the current state of unmanned vehicle (UV) technology. We will begin by defining the key terms of art relating to UV technology. We will subsequently set out a brief history of UVs, prior to the turn of the century and then consider why their use has exploded following it.

1.1 Definition and terms

There is, as of yet, a lack of consistency in the nomenclature and taxonomy of unmanned vehicles. As with the précis we will utilise the following acronyms, recognising they are not universally accepted. Expert commentators in this edition have also adopted the following terms.

1.1.1 Common acronyms, synonyms and key terms

• UVs: Any vehicle which operates without a human in direct physical contact with that vehicle.

• UV variants: The four acronyms used to describe UVs operating in different environments are UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), USVs (unmanned [water] surface vehicles), and UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles).

• UCV variants: Refers to weaponised UVs. UVs designed specifically for this purpose usually include the term ‘combat’ within the acronym; hence a UCAV is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

• Drones: The term ‘drone’ is arguably the most common and widespread synonym for UVs. In particular it is used to refer to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).[1]

• Remote vehicles[2]: These generally refer to vehicles over which a human has direct, albeit remote, control. For instance a human operator receives visual images from cameras or sensors on-board a UV and steers it by cable (tethered control) or wireless signal (remote control). This form of human/machine interface is referred to as ‘teleoperated’ control.

• Robotics: The more autonomous forms of UVs are often referred to as robots or robotic systems. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) describes a robot as ‘a machine ... designed to function in place of a living agent, esp. one which carries out a variety of tasks automatically or with a minimum of external impulse’.

1.1.2 Autonomy

UVs vary in their form and complexity, but perhaps the most important distinguishing feature, especially for the purposes of this article, is the degree to which a UV can operate without human control and direction.

Modern UVs are all ‘controlled’ to one degree or another; however modern technology platforms and ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) give drones the capacity to function without direct human intervention. UAVs in current use can, for instance, be set general patrol coordinates and then left to pilot themselves; while surveillance UGVs can independently patrol long stretches of border, only alerting a human controller when suspicious activity is detected.

Due to this increasing level of independence, UVs are often referred to as ‘autonomous vehicles’. However, it is clear that, at present, no drone in active military or commercial use is actually ‘autonomous’, in the sense that they are completely independent or self-governing. In this edition we will continue to maintain a distinction between ‘semi-autonomous’ and ‘fully autonomous’ drones.

Semi-autonomous drones are given broad operating instructions by operators, but are left to carry out routine functions within those parameters, such as navigation or monitoring operations. Critical decisions, such as whether to fire weapons or follow a suspect target off routine patrol paths are currently left to a human operator to veto or directly control. In this respect military officials sometimes describe this form of artificial intelligence as ‘supervised autonomy’.[3]

Fully autonomous drones would not require such a human veto. Rather, they would be given general instructions and then left to fulfil their directives according to their programming and artificial intelligence. In this way a fully autonomous drone would be akin to a soldier who is given a general directive — for instance, ‘secure that hill’ — but, apart from observing general rules of engagement would be left to fulfil the mission according to programming.[4]

2 The Historical Use of Unmanned Vehicles

As we stated above, unmanned vehicles are by no means a novel technology. Ancient civilisations are known to have built a variety of unmanned craft, even flying ones.[5] Although some of these may have simply been for science or spectacle, more often than not ancient UVs were used to provide advantage on the battlefield. In that arena, unmanned vehicles were seen as advantageous as they could, on the one hand, maximise the influence over the zone of conflict whilst, on the other hand, minimise exposure of personnel to the risks created by the conflict.[6] This trend continued into the mechanisation of war following the industrial revolution; indeed some of the first machines to enter onto the modern battlefield were UVs.[7] Yet, despite being involved in most major armed conflicts from that period to the turn of the millennium,[8] the impact of UVs on the conflict zone — with some notable exceptions by the Israelis[9] — was rather minimal.[10]

A number of factors might account for the sidelining of UVs from mainstream combat roles during the twentieth century. One is the lack of support by some operations planners and military commanders, due to the unproven, untested and initially unreliable technology.[11] Early UVs did however prove successful within aerospace reconnaissance, decoy and target roles;[12] which made them popular with the intelligence community. However, that meant that much of the research and development in the area was highly classified,[13] and as such it is hard to determine just the number of UVs deployed to conflicts and covert operations.[14]

2.1 Non military roles

UVs tended to have an even smaller role outside of the military. The main exceptions to this general rule were within exploratory UUVs and agricultural UAVs.

The oceans are relatively uncluttered and do not require highly complex navigation. This made early UUV development easier.[15] UUVs proved useful in undersea mapping, and later in wreck detection and submarine rescue.[16] Obviously these roles had a naval/military utility, yet they also were important for other sectors, particularly marine research and the resource industry. Despite such vehicles being unmanned during this period, the reality was that most commercial, research and military UUVs were ‘tethered’ to a human operator and could not truly be said to be semi-autonomous.[17]

Another exception to the military focus of UV development has been in aerial spraying of agricultural crops, in particular by the Japanese who trialled unmanned helicopters as early as the 1950s.[18] Although early UVs were initially more like a remote controlled vehicle, by the turn of the century Japanese rotary-wing UAVs were advanced enough to navigate to pre-programmed routes without direct human oversight, and undertook tasks such as crop spraying, agricultural monitoring or scientific mapping.[19]

2.2 UVs in the 21st century

The latter part of the 20th century saw the advent of the ‘digital revolution’, which resulted in dramatic advances in computing processing power, sensor technology and satellite telecommunications.[20] These technical developments permitted a commensurate evolution in UV independence and autonomy and by the turn of the century, technology was sufficiently advanced to generate real interest in deploying UVs outside of covert military operations.[21] However, it was perhaps the terrorist attacks in September 2001 in the United States that served as the most important catalyst for the adoption of UVs as a key counterinsurgency tool. Of particular note is the ability of UVs to provide global, persistent surveillance; reduce the sensor-to-shoot cycle; and undertake dull dirty and dangerous roles. These factors are discussed in greater detail below.

2.2.1 Catalysts for the UV revolution: ‘Global Persistent Surveillance’

The terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, led to the so-called ‘war on terror’, and a decisive shift in the military strategy of the US and its allies. As its name suggests, the war on terror is one waged against asymmetric opposition — usually small groups, or even individuals, who may be dispersed, highly mobile and located in remote locations.[22] The US response to these challenges was, in part, a policy of ‘global persistent surveillance’ which aimed to ‘deny enemies sanctuary by developing capabilities for persistent surveillance, tracking, and rapid engagement’.[23] This refocussing of US strategic and military policy shifted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations from the periphery of covert operations to the centre of regular military engagements.[24] The result was increased demand, funding and research into platforms that could undertake consistent, wide-scale, and high-powered ISR duties.

2.2.2 Catalysts for the UV revolution: sensor to shooter cycle

A characteristic of the war on terror has been the disparity in logistical, technological and numeric strength between the US, and the armed groups opposing it. Those opponents have adopted an asymmetric response, involving the use of decentralisation, force dispersion, concealment, ambush techniques and the ability to quickly disappear into remote locations or amongst civilian populations.[25]

Countering asymmetric warfare has required that conventional forces adopt a similar level of speed and versatility. In traditional warfare there is often a significant lapse between detecting and engaging an enemy, commonly referred to as the ‘sensor-to-shooter cycle’.[26] Reducing the sensor-to-shooter cycle was a major concern for the conventional forces operating in the post 2001 middle-east conflicts. The longer the delay, the higher the chance the enemy would either disappear into countryside or urban areas, or mount a surprise attack or ambush.[27]

2.2.3 Catalysts for the UV revolution: dirty, dull and dangerous

The growth of UV technology has also been attributed to their propensity to undertake ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ roles.[28] As a result, UVs have become extremely popular amongst military and governmental planners and decision makers. This is not least because of the highly politicised nature of modern warfare and the belief amongst administrators and strategists that the public has a low tolerance for domestic troop casualties in foreign conflicts.[29] Furthermore, troop management and efficiency are extremely important in modern military operations, which have become increasingly focused upon ‘winning the peace’ after the initial ‘shock and awe’ tactics have moved resistance into the hills or into the cities of conflict zones.[30] Stabilisation requires resources on the ground to patrol civilian areas for threats, and to increase troop engagement with local populations to help build trust and support.[31] UVs transfer risk from soldier to robot, permitting commanders to transfer troops to vital human-centric roles.[32]

3 A Love Affair with a Predator

In the preceding section we identified some of the main catalysts that lead to the adoption of UVs in the ‘war on terror’. The Predator UAV, which has been used from the outset of this conflict, provides a clear illustration of how the new political and military paradigms that have arisen as part of this war, have fostered the UV revolution.

The Predator UAV is a lightweight turboprop propelled plane just over eight metres in length, first developed in the mid-1990s for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[33] Each Predator UAV operates as part of a cohesive and integrated weapons system, made up of four UAVs with on-board sensors, a ground control station and a satellite communication suite.[34] All parts of this weapons system can be packed for rapid deployment and transport to remote locations within a very short period of time, with human operators remaining in one location controlling UAVs in another remote location, often on another continent and in a different time zone. Like other UV systems, Predators also offer a highly flexible and customisable equipment platform. Removing the pilot from an aerial vehicle creates about 2.3 metric tonne of extra carrying capacity,[35] freeing up space and weight which can be used to retrofit a wide range of sensors or specialised equipment to suit the task at hand.[36] Alternatively, they can also be fitted with weapons systems, the most popular of which is the Hellfire missile, a long-range, supersonic missile designed for ‘precision’[37] attacks on heavy armour.[38]

Prior to 2001, the Predator was used sparingly outside of covert operations, in part as a result of latency issues and a lack of integration with mainstream military forces.[39] However, by 2001 communications problems were largely overcome and it became apparent that the CIA was already using a small number of Predator drones to covertly search for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.[40] From October 2001, Predators were flying ISR missions, and in February 2002, the Predator undertook its first operational strike, armed with hellfire missiles.

In the wake of these initial sorties, analysts lauded the Predator as a panacea for the special operating conditions required by the war on terror.[41] What was most exciting for military planners was its ability to pass real-time ISR data to strike teams and decision makers, located both inside and outside of the conflict zone. Predators solve much of the ‘sensor-to-shooter cycle’ problems in the insurgent focused Afghan and Iraq conflicts by providing live surveillance feeds to combat teams that are able to engage with the target instantly.[42]

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of UVs, the versatility of the predator platform and its transportability have also been credited with its rapid adoption and expansion post 2001. Predators, like other UAVs, are also extremely inexpensive to operate in comparison to conventional manned equivalents.[43] Furthermore, they act as ‘force multipliers’, allowing soldiers and operatives to have a much wider view of the battlefield than they would have previously had.[44] They also reduce soldiers’ workloads, allowing troop energies to be directed towards critical areas that still require active human involvement.[45]

3.1 An expanding aerial presence – from sideline support to central strategy

Military advances, especially by technology rich superpowers like the US are driven by a consistent belief that scientific and industrial progress will guarantee both military supremacy and success at war.[46] Thus, despite continuing caution by some military strategists, the Bush Administration made funding of high tech UAVs a ‘top priority’ in its 2003 budget.[47] Government spending on drone programmes has increased ever since, with the Obama Administration spending US$5 billion on drones in the 2012 budget.[48] The result has been a marked increase in the number[49] and type of UVs used on the battlefield by the US, and a revolutionary shift in the focus of modern military operations.

As Stulberg writes, ‘[i]t is now conventional wisdom that we stand at the dawning of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) revolution in military affairs.’[50] Prior to 2001, the US Department of Defence deployed less than 50 UAVs; by 2006 the number was well over 3,000,[51] and in 2012, the Pentagon now has approximately 7,500 UAVs.[52] The US Air Force trains more UAV operators than conventional pilots, reflecting the new direction of aerial warfare.[53]

4 Current Aerial Applications

Modern UAVs can basically be separated out into three main classes:[54] micro and small; medium altitude; and high altitude, long endurance (HALE).[55]

Micro and small UAVs are typically less than a metre in length, while micro UAVs are measured in centimetres. Launch is usually by hand or by catapult, with the drone flying at low altitudes and limited ranges.[56] They are usually battery powered and therefore very quiet.[57] Small and micro UAVs are most commonly used by ground units to provide short-range, up to the minute ISR data.[58] They are also favoured by intelligence bodies such as the CIA.[59] Whilst this class has been previously restricted to largely ISR roles, the US Air Force is currently procuring a micro weaponised UAV known as a Switchblade, which ‘launches from a small tube that can be carried in a backpack.’[60]

Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs generally operate at the same altitudes as conventional commercial aircraft.[61] The Predator is a medium altitude UAV, but is now joined by a wide spectrum of flying vehicles.[62] A second generation hunter-killed Predator B, for instance — also known as the ‘Reaper’ — is capable of reaching altitudes of 15.8 kilometres and can fly up to 36 hours before refuelling.[63] It has also been designed to provide a more combat focused platform (spawning the term ‘Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle’ UCAV), and can now carry laser guided bombs, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, munitions and soon an air-to-air missile system.[64] The most updated derivative of the Predator is the MQ-1C Gray Eagle (or Sky Warrior) with the capacity to carry four Hellfire missiles.[65]

Two turbo-fan variants of the Predator have also been designed. The Predator B ‘Mariner’, a maritime version of the Predator that has been adapted to fly even longer ranges for naval surveillance as well as take-off and land from seaborn vessels,[66] as well as a stealth focussed, turbo-prop Predator variant (the Predator C ‘Avenger’) which can fly at 400 knots true airspeed and is the fastest in the Predator family.[67]

A range of rotary wing vessels in this class are also in development or in active use, for surveillance and targeting with weaponised versions close to being deployed. The MQ-8B Fire Scout, for instance, is an unmanned helicopter system which is able to be launched from ocean going platforms and travels at speeds of 200 kilometres per hour at up to 6,000 metres for up to eight hours without refuelling.[68] It is able to fire a range of missiles and rockets and carries day/night and multispectral sensors with targeting lasers for strikes by larger aerial vehicles.[69]

High Altitude and Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs fly at altitudes over nine kilometres and are designed for wide area, long-term surveillance. Typically they can stay aloft for long periods of time, providing ISR data over an extremely large target area. Given the highly covert nature of the high altitude spy drones they tend to be highly classified and shrouded in mystery.[70] One exception is the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, which can reach altitudes exceeding 19 kilometres.[71] Operating at this altitude provides the craft with a surveillance range of over 100,000 square kilometres via high-powered sensors, which can see through clouds, darkness and dust.[72] One military strategist described them as being ‘like a low Earth orbit satellite that’s present all the time.’[73] The additional advantage of operating at high altitude is that the fighter-jet sized UAV is far outside the range of most air defence systems, allowing relatively low risk and constant ISR surveillance. This also frees up human operators from the need to constantly monitor for ground-based threats.

4.1 Swarms

As noted above, early UAV systems, operated as part of a cohesive and integrated system, often with a series of unmanned vehicles (in the Predator’s case four). These were originally operated separately, but more recent technology allows for the simultaneous deployment of multiple UVs from a single control station. These ‘swarms’ allow a ‘single operator [to] monitor a group of semi-autonomous aerial robotic weapons systems through a wireless network that connects each robot to others and to the operator.’[74] Swarm technologies have been heralded as a ‘milestone in UAV flight’ as the best Unmanned Aerial System can be assigned to each request.[75] Further, they will allow for improved response time and reduced manning requirements.[76] Future swarms may also include combinations of unmanned air, sea and ground vehicles.

4.2 UCAVs

Whilst UAVs began primarily as surveillance craft, they are increasingly used for combat roles. Whilst originally this involved retrofitting UAVs with weapons systems a large amount of effort is now going into creating combat specific UCAVs.[77] Facilitating this transition are a range of lightweight missile systems currently in development. These lighter payloads will allow for the weight gains to be put towards improving the engines, armour or stealth capabilities of the drones.[78] Since the outset of the war in Afghanistan in 2001, the number of UCAVs in use, as well as the situations in which they have been used, has grown exponentially. UCAVs are set to be the biggest combat system in US military. In October 2011, a US Predator and a French warplane hit two vehicles fleeing Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, forcing the convoy to disperse, after which Gaddafi was caught by rebels.[79]

In parallel to the US Department of Defense UAV programme in Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA has been reportedly running covert UCAV operations in Yemen, Pakistan[80] and Somalia[81] as well as ISR missions in Iran[82] and Syria.[83]

The CIA programme in Pakistan has received significant attention due to the allegedly high number of civilian deaths caused by UCAV strikes. According to research conducted by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) in 2012, there have been 260 UAVs strikes since President Obama took office in 2009, with approximately 128 strikes in 2010 and 76 in 2011.[84] Although there are no official statistics on the number of casualties, TBIJ research states that between 282 to 535 civilians had been “credibly reported” killed in drone attacks, including more than 60 children.[85]

5 A Move to the Ground

Whilst UVs have become the centrepiece of modern air warfare, UGVs have a much more complex operating and navigational environment. That is not to say that UGVs are not in use by the armed forces; in fact, more ground robots (12,000 in total) are used in Afghanistan and Iraq than UAVs (approximately 7,000). However, the majority of these are remotely controlled or ‘teleoperated’[86] and not semi-autonomous.[87]

Teleoperated UGVs are used in a wide variety of situations which pose immediate risks to human combatants; in particular ordinance disposal, urban scouting, and doorway breaching.[88] Small UGVs can also be fitted with a variety of cameras and sensors to see through smoke, at night or detect the existence of explosives, chemical, biological or radiological agents.[89] A weaponised teleoperated UGV,[90] the Special Weapons Observation Remote Direct-Action System (SWORDS) was approved for use in Iraq in 2008.[91] SWORDS are nearly silent to operate and can move as fast as a running person, climb stairs and rock piles, move through wire barriers, sand, snow and water and correct themselves if knocked over.[92]

Larger teleoperated vehicles have been designed to rescue and provide first aid to injured troops under fire, ‘with minimal intervention by medic or other first responder operators.’[93] Others have been developed for repair and reconstruction under fire, such as moving dirt or repairing craters in runways.[94]

Whilst the majority of UGVs are currently teleoperated, there is a concerted effort to field more autonomous vehicles, which do not require constant human oversight and control. Autonomous or semi-autonomous land based navigation is perhaps the most challenging of the environments for UV programmers and engineers due to the plethora of ‘nontrivial navigational capabilities’ required to effectively operate in ground roles.[95] However, the Israelis have made significant inroads integrating autonomous UGVs into active military practice.[96] The Guardium UGV, for instance, is a small armoured all terrain vehicle equipped with a wide array of cameras and sensors. It can patrol to pre-programmed coordinates without human control and react to unscheduled events.[97] It was deployed on the Israeli border to detect infiltrators after humans undertaking the same roles were attacked and kidnapped in 2006.[98] A weaponised combat version of the Guardium has been trialled and certified by the Israeli army.[99]

South Korea is reportedly using a similar UGV to the Guardium to patrol its border with North Korea.[100] South Korea also operates stationary robotic platforms that can detect, identify and target intruders in a completely autonomous way, if permitted.[101]

In the US, there has been a concerted effort by the government to bring UGV autonomy up to the level of UAVs and indeed provide for more autonomous and complex AI in the future.[102] Currently, the US is trialling a number of medium to large UGV systems.[103] These include: the Black-I Robotics unmanned crossover land vehicle, similar in weight and specifications to the Guardium UGV;[104] a larger, truck sized, Multifunction Utility Logistics Equipment (MULE) UGV designed mostly for transport and operations support;[105] and heavier six-ton UGV tank code-named the ‘Crusher’ for heavy payloads and rugged terrain.[106] The Crusher can operate in semi-autonomous mode, or be remotely teleoperated by satellite link.[107]

6 On and Under Water: Naval UVs

6.1 Surface vehicles

Unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are arguably the least developed of the UV family, despite the fact that the surface of the water — at least calm water — is perhaps the most easily navigable environment for a robotic AI. Indeed, robotic technology is sufficiently advanced that UV systems can be retrofitted to (up to fifteen per control unit) conventional watercraft to provide them with semi-autonomous functions.[108] There have been recent forays into semi-autonomous UAVs however. The Israeli Protector is a nine metre sealed, rigid hull USV,[109] designed to protect against seaborn terrorist attacks.[110] It operates a water jet engine, allowing it to travel at speeds of 50 knots and can patrol in semi-autonomous mode; although its stabilised machine guns are currently teleoperated by a human controller, as is its public address system.[111] It is now in full service by the Israeli Navy.[112]

While the US has shown some interest in small patrol USVs,[113] it appears to have set its sights on developing much larger USV platforms. In 2010, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.[114] The project seeks to develop a frigate sized USV ‘for theatre or global independent deployment’ capable of tracking modern diesel electric submarines. DARPA hopes for a highly autonomous vessel ‘founded on the assumption that no person steps aboard at any point in its operating cycle.’ Communications with base are to be ‘intermittent’ for the ‘global, months long deployments with no underway human maintenance or repair opportunity.’[115] The ACTUV program is still in progress, with phase two out of a four phase cycle set to commence in July 2012.[116]

6.2 Underwater vehicles

More prominent, both in military and civilian use, are USVs’ undersea cousins, UUVs. Ordinance clearing UUVs were deployed by the allies in the early part of the second Iraq war to clear naval mines.[117] As a result a number of navies have fitted destroyer fleets with permanent on-board UUVs.[118]

In 2004, the US Navy mapped a twenty-year ‘UUV Master Plan’ that would substantially integrate UUVs into all aspects of its operations.[119] The UUV Master Plan envisions UUVs being used for a wide range of undersea operations,[120] to the extent that current manned undersea vehicles may become redundant or extremely limited in future conflicts. These include: ISR collection and distribution; undersea mapping; the creation of moveable naval data and communications networks; countermeasure and decoy operations; and ‘time critical strike capabilities against undersea, surface, air and land targets.[121]

7 The Drone Gold Rush

As a result of the demand for UV technology, market commentators have noted that there is a drone gold rush. According to the US Teal Group, the global UAV market is currently worth US$6 billion a year,[122] and will rise to US$12 billion a year by 2018.[123]

Although the global UV market has traditionally been dominated by US[124] and Israeli companies, competitors in Europe[125] and Asia-Pacific are multiplying rapidly.[126] More than forty countries now have UV programs and the competition between these countries for market and technological dominance is increasing.[127] All of the major EU arms companies are now involved in UV production or prototype development.[128] China is reportedly developing its own UAV program, including a copy of the Predator UAV.[129]

8 Beyond the Military – The Transition to Civilian Use

In this section we consider the civilian uses of UVs, both now and into the future. We noted above that UVs have not been used as extensively for civilian purposes as they have military ones. We also highlighted two exceptions to this general rule, the first being limited agricultural use and the second, undersea operations. Whilst the former represented only a very small component of global industrial usage, UVs played a dominant role in the latter. Indeed, it is said that the ‘golden age’ of UUV technology occurred more than a decade before the UAV revolution, when the public were provided footage of undersea wrecks like the Titanic through the tethered cameras of robotic submersibles.[130] As groundbreaking and popular as such operations were, they were actually made possible because of a knowledge and resource pool created by virtue of commercial and industrial uses of the technology; for instance, as petrochemical and mineral extraction, or subsea pipeline and cable laying and maintenance.[131] Those industries have a particular interest in developing robotic technologies that could supplant humans in the undertaking of ‘dirty, dangerous or dull’ jobs in alien, high risk, environments. Above the water however, there was much less of an impetus to the development of expensive alternatives to human operated vehicles and UV development has therefore historically been driven the military sectors of wealthier nations seeking to transfer the risk from human combatants to machine ones.

Recently there has been marked transition from military to civilian uses for drone technologies. This has been driven by a number of factors:

• Inter-agency transfer: As drones have moved beyond being highly expensive prototype hardware to more mainstream military and research vehicles there has been an increasing willingness for inter-agency transfer of drones for civilian use or trials.[132]

• Increasing international demand: As a result the of the increasing market competition for ever an ever wider range of countries unmanning their military sectors, the price of drones has decreased significantly bringing them within reach of non-military bodies, whom manufactures view as an important new market.[133]

• Public R&D Support: The massive R&D push into drone technology and computing generally has brought both know-how and inexpensive technology into the wider public arena.

• Increased access to powerful hardware platforms: Over the past two decades computing power and hardware systems have become incredibly powerful, inexpensive and, more importantly, widely available to commercial markets.[134] Consumers can now purchase ‘off the shelf’ systems that are almost, if not as, complex and powerful as those available to the military.[135] Conversely, the military has become increasingly reliant on commercial hardware, consequently much of the technology used in the construction of UVs are available on the open market.[136]

Drone technology is increasingly within the reach of public bodies, private companies and even individuals. This trend will most likely continue. We have already set out some of the roles that UVs are being used for by such bodies, recognising that as the technology becomes more accessible a range of other applications will no doubt come online.

8.1 Border security

Border security and customs roles are particularly well suited to UAVs,[137] which are now used to detect illegal transborder activities, border infringements,[138] drug[139] and people smuggling.[140] More often than not, these agencies utilise craft, such as the Predator drone, which are directly seconded from the military and, as of yet, it is rare to find UVs specifically designed for non-military surveillance.

8.2 Policing

Policing is another sector in which UVs are beginning to appear. The British police have been particularly enthusiastic about UVs and, under the rubric of the UK Government Home Office, have been developing a nationwide drone program since at least 2007.[141] The program reportedly includes trialling medium and low altitude UAVs, with an arrest being assisted by the use of a small UAV for the first time in 2010.[142] The program envisions military UAVs being modified for a wide range of civilian law enforcement activities, including ‘routine monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers’[143] as well gathering evidence of ‘vandalism, graffiti or littering.’[144] At the 2012 London Olympics, unarmed UAVs will be used for crowd surveillance and security.[145]

In addition to drones, UK police are also using UGVs including the Wheelbarrow Mk9 remote explosive ordinance device, while the UK National Rail and London Fire Brigade are using small UGVs to deal with acetylene rail fires.[146]

According to reports, other police forces have also sought to arm ground and aerial drones with Tasers for non-lethal engagement of suspects.[147] Although the use of Taser drones could not be verified by the authors, two French companies market small and micro UAVs which can variously be armed with a 44mm flash-ball-gun,[148] tear-gas canisters,[149] or Tasers.[150]

8.3 Patrolling and inspection

The need to patrol large restricted areas is not limited to the military. Various industries require ground and air surveillance. For instance, semi-autonomous UGVs have been suggested for a range of industries including: nuclear and electric power plants; railway lines and tracks; sensitive industrial and research areas; oil and gas pipelines, refineries and storage areas; zoos, wildlife reserves and safaris and even private farms and ranches.[151] Semi-autonomous patrol vehicles are obviously well suited to monitoring gaols and detention centres, many of which are now privately operated.[152] Dull and routine operations, such as car parking inspection, have also been highlighted as a possible role for semi-autonomous UGVs.[153] Similarly, the need to inspect cars and vehicles for bombs or other hazards is not limited to the military; security firms protecting hotels, conference centres and other organisations at risk of terrorist activities are very interested in robots that can undertake these dangerous tasks.[154]

8.4 Emergency and hazard management

Adapted military drones have also proven successful in emergency management fire fighting, where they can be used for monitoring operations in dangerous environments.[155] For instance, predator drones with specially designed heat sensors were provided to Californian authorities to help them battle against the massive wildfires that ravaged that state in 2008.[156] In that case only fire surveillance was provided, but in the future, custom-built fire fighting and water bombing UAVs may be used to combat fires, removing human pilots from the high-risk environment of wildfires. In a more recent example, Global Hawk UAVs were used following the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in March 2011 to provide ‘real time data to disaster relief.’[157]

UVs also promise to provide ground support in areas inaccessible to rescue crews. Small teleoperated and semi-autonomous UGVs designed for reconnaissance in houses and caves are well adapted to exploring earthquake, disaster zones and other hazardous terrain for survivors.[158] Both the Japanese fire service[159] and the Israeli military[160] have been have been trialling rescue UVs that can rescue injured persons in high-risk areas. Not only would these be important in troop rescue, but they also could be used to extract civilians from remote regions, disaster zones, fires or even riots.

8.5 Remote exploration works and repair

In the undersea environment, UUVs have been used for decades to undertake repairs to hulls, pipelines, or oil rigs.[161] More autonomous UUVs are being developed which will undertake this work automatically.[162] UUVs are also being used for underwater exploration, including the US Oceans Observation Initiative which aims to conduct a bottom to surface mapping of ocean activities over a period of three decades. The Initiative will operate with two major arrays on the East and West coast of the US, as well as four stations in the Pacific, off the coast of Greenland, Argentina and Chile. UUVs, including the Remus 600 and Slocum gliders will be used to transmit data from approximately 800 instruments to researchers (and civilians) around the world, with the first data expected to be available in 2013.[163]

Repair systems are in development on land, including maintenance of remote drilling stations, mineral exploration in remote areas, as well as plumbing and maintenance robots that travel subterranean sewer pipes monitoring for weakness or structural breaches, automatically repairing the damage, or, where that is not possible, recording and alerting controllers to it.[164]

Israeli companies have produced a range of heavy UGVs for bulldozing and earthmoving, which are in active use, to undertake structural works under fire. Whilst teleoperated, future earthmoving UGVs are likely to be automated to undertake routine maintenance of runways, fire-trails, civil engineering, resource transport, or clearing forest and farmland.[165]

8.6 Urban transport

Whilst UGVs are able to operate off-road and for limited on-road military uses, it is relatively well accepted that they are not yet ready for the nontrivial navigation required to operate on public highways and roads.[166] Despite this, there have been concerted efforts to advance technology to a level where it can safely operate in civilian traffic zones. Proponents hope that one day automated vehicles will act as taxis, reduce traffic congestion, combat global warming emissions, and reduce road fatalities.[167]

One of the leaders in the field, Google, has completed over 200,000 miles with its fleet of autonomous Prius vehicles.[168] The Prius uses ‘artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.’[169] It can even be programmed for different driving personalities.[170]

Most major automobile companies are also developing autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles,[171] such as BMW’s ConnectedDrive Connect (CDC) system which operates using four types of sensors – radar, camera, laser scanners and ultrasound distance sensors – to detect cars in front and in adjacent lanes.[172] The vehicle was trialled on the German Autobahn in 2011, and is expected to go into production ‘in a few years.’[173] Although conservative estimates predict that autonomous cars will be sold commercially by 2020, more enthusiastic proponents hope to have such cars on the road by 2015.[174] Pre-empting this shift in the urban landscape, legislation has been implemented in the US state of Nevada, requiring the adoption of regulations authorising autonomous vehicles.[175]

Both the US and the European Union have been funding autonomous UGV research and development since the 1980s. DARPA has attempted to encourage public sector involvement in UGV autonomy through the DAPRA Grand Challenges, a series of task-based competitions pitting different UGVs against each other, most recently in the urban environment, for a total prize pool of US$3.5 million.[176]

The US Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Programme Office is developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology whereby unmanned cars rely on ‘connected and cooperative systems to communicate with the roads and each other.’ For example, a vehicle could detect another car that has run a red light, and would respond accordingly to avoid a collision. Current V2V technology allows vehicles to avoid up to 80% of dangerous traffic scenarios, however more work is needed to counter concerns about privacy and cyber security.[177] The Department is also seeking external input through its Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge.[178]

The European Commission is currently funding the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SATRE) project, which commenced in 2009 and aims to develop safe and effective ‘road train’ technology. The system would allow individual drivers to link up to the rear of a train of vehicles which would be controlled by a lead vehicle. Cars would be outfitted with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit, which would allow them to locate and the nearest train and relax, sleep, or work during their commute. Upon arrival at the destination, the driver could split off from the train and retake control of the vehicle.

8.7 Drone journalism

Although domestic regulations in many countries currently limit the use of UAVs for civilian and commercial purposes,[179] several news agencies are operating micro drones capable of obtaining footage from remote or dangerous areas.[180] As UAVs are more fully integrated into commercial airspace, drone journalism – including civilian-journalism and paparazzi-journalism – is set to increase.[181]

8.8 Other areas

The civil use of UAVs could be significant and extensive: private and insurance investigation; event coverage; traffic management and monitoring; fisheries protection; real-time disaster reconnaissance and management; aerial surveillance by Surf Life Saving groups;[182] coverage of large public events; mechanised agriculture; power line surveying; aerial photography; film and cinematography; surveillance of foreign Embassies and Consulates;[183] scientific research; environmental monitoring and so on.


Stulberg, quoted above, noted in 2007 that we at the ‘dawning’ of a UV revolution. It is now safe to say that the revolution is very much upon us, certainly in the military sector, but increasingly in the civilian one. Even in the two years since the précis to this special edition, upon which this article is based, was written there have been significant advances in UV technology, the way it is used and where it is deployed. As the UK Ministry of Defense reported in 2011:

[UVs] have already changed, and will continue to change, the way that we conduct warfare. Associated technologies are developing at an unprecedented rate and the relentless nature and speed of these advancements make it hard to assimilate, analyse and fully understand the implications: this makes it difficult to plan clearly and confidently for the future.[184]

It is impossible to completely predict the true form of these advances, or the impact they will have on society. It is also important not to overestimate their impact or their risks. Modern society has proved remarkably adept at integrating and normalising technological developments, especially once any moral panic relating to their introduction subsides. On the other hand, the negative impacts of some technological advancements have only become clear subsequent to their introduction and integration into society; which makes them much harder to regulate and control. Ensuring that such risks are managed in a balanced manner which permits us to benefit from the advances requires prospective consideration, deliberation and regulation. That can be particularly challenging when such advances are so ‘speed[y]’ and ‘relentless’. However, if we do not at least make an attempt we might find ourselves overrun by the technology before we can translate the discussion into effective action (assuming any action is needed). The remainder of this special edition is therefore dedicated to predicting and evaluating the legal issues arising from this technological revolution whose dawn has already appeared to have passed.

[1] Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary describes a drone as ‘a pilotless aircraft or missile directed by remote control.’

[2] Other common terms used to describe UVs include Remotely Piloted Vehicles and Remotely Operated Vehicles.

[3] John Keller, The time has come for military ground robots (2010) 20(6) Military & Aerospace Electronics <> (accessed 10 March 2012).

[4] According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, ‘[a] number of countries are already reportedly deploying or developing systems with the capacity to take humans out of the lethal decision-making loop.’ One such autonomous robotic system is an unmanned watchtowers deployed by Israel on the Gaza border, armed with machine guns that locates targets and ‘transmits information to an operations command centre where a soldier can locate and track the target and shoot to kill.’ Future plans include a Watchtower that will remove human intervention from the identify/target/shoot process. A similar system is being used by South Korea in the demilitarised zone and has reportedly been ‘equipped with the capacity to fire on its own.’ See Philip Alston, Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, UN Doc A/65/321, (23 August 2010) 15.

[5] The ancient Greek engineer Archytas is said to have invented the first UAV, a mechanical pigeon, in the 4th Century BC. It was recorded as having flown some 200 meters. Kimon P Valavanis, Advances in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: State of the Art and the Road to Autonomy (2007).

[6] Hence, the vast majority of early R&D in unmanned vehicles was directed towards gathering surveillance from, or delivering payloads to, high-risk territory. The Greeks and Chinese, for instance, set unmanned ships on fire and steered them into their enemies’ fleets to cause panic and destruction or break their formation. Chinese generals also made use of kites for military reconnaissance. In 200 BC, the Chinese General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty was said to have flown a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the defences. See Michael John Haddrick Taylor and David Mondey, Milestones of Flight (Jane’s, 1983); Kenneth S Smith Jr, The Intelligence Link – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the Battlefield Commander (1990) <> (accessed 2 March 2012).

[7] Including unmanned surveillance balloons that dropped explosives on enemies (patented in 1863), remotely controlled torpedoes (1866) and aerial kites equipped with cameras remotely controlled by a long string to take surveillance photos of enemy positions and fortifications (1898).

[8] See Office of the Secretary of Defense (US) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005 – 2030, (2005) k-1, (‘US OSD Roadmap’).

[9] During the 1980s, the Israeli air force successfully used UAVs to detect, and draw fire from, Syrian anti-aircraft batteries, allowing manned jets to then remove the threat. Following this success, Israel expanded its drone program, placing extensive resources into the novel technology and how it could be integrated into combat systems and strategy. By the turn of the century Israel was using a range of UVs to provide Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data from, or adjacent to dangerous enemy territory that could be provided via up-to-the-minute feeds to commanders, air support, battle units and strike teams. See Adam Stulberg, ‘Managing the Unmanned Revolution in the U.S. Air Force’ (2007) 51(2) Orbis 253.

[10] Although the German V-1 bombs that terrorised London during the late part of WWII are often cited as the first successful UAV attack, we would not consider them either true UAVs in the modern sense, nor truly ‘successful’. Whilst the technology behind V-1s was, at the time, groundbreaking, it was not capable of providing a significant advantage over traditional, manned vehicles. In part this was because the systems were too costly to operate both in terms of real costs but also in terms of payload efficiency: only about one quarter of V-1s were to hit their targets, with the remainder failing. V-1s are simply single use, single target ‘terror weapons’ which ‘lacked precision guidance’. The guidance problems that plagued V-1s would also be a problem for post-war UAVs. These problems included short duration aloft and communications limitations, which required a line-of-sight to the UV or at the least close proximity to it. Whilst this was acceptable in non-conflict arenas, for instance where the drones were used as test targets, the limitation undermined one of the main advantages of UV technology, that is, removing humans from the area of risk. See Bill Yenne, Attack of the Drones: A History of Unmanned Aerial Combat (Zenith Press, 2004) 19; see also, Daren Sorenson, Preparing for the Long War: Transformation of UAVs in Force Structure Planning for Joint Close Air Support Operations (2006) Joint Forces Staff College (US) 14–15, <> (accessed 12 March 2012).

[11] As Goebel states: ‘The whole idea of reconnaissance drones seemed to be completely dead, but at the last moment the USAF rescued the program. One of the interesting themes in defence programs is how new military systems are often initially proposed in grand terms, with whizzy features and the latest technology. When the grand plan proves too complicated and expensive, the military then backtracks, finally ending up with a much more modest solution, often a minimal modification of an existing system. Interestingly, such compromise solutions often prove far more effective than expected.’ See Greg Goebel, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (2010) ‘The Lightning Bug Reconnaissance Drones’ v2.0.0 [3.0], <> (accessed 01 March 2012).

[12] Where they were not required to undertake complex navigation to avoid obstacles or hazards, and therefore did not require a large amount of command and control and therefore were less susceptible to jamming or spoofing. See Goebel, ibid.

[13] Although Newcome postulates that part of the reason that information about drone use in conflicts like the Vietnam War was suppressed was a fear that it would affect the livelihoods of human fighter pilots by creating a push towards the roboticisation of the air force. See Laurence Newcome, Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) (2004) 67–69.

[14] UVs featured in conflicts such as the Vietnam War (see US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, p k-1) although it is clear that they did undertake important surveillance and decoy missions. See Newcome, ibid, 69.

[15] G N Roberts, ‘Trends in Marine Control Systems’ (2008) 32 Annual Reviews in Control 263.

[16] Indeed UUVs — albeit tethered versions — gained a great deal of public attention during the 1990s with the discovery and exploration of undersea wrecks like the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Bismarck, which could only have been made possible through robotic UV systems. In fact, the first ‘golden age’ in UV technology occurred under the oceans more than a decade before it did in the air. See Andrew Henderson, ‘Murky Waters: The Legal Status of Unmanned Undersea Vehicles’ (2006) 53 Naval Law Review 55, 57.

[17] Roberts, above n 15, 266.

[18] With commercial use starting in the 1970s. See Mark Peterson, ‘The UAV and the Current and Future Regulatory Construct for Integration into the National Airspace System’ (2006) 71 Journal of Air Law and Commerce 521, 546.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Satellite technology seems to have played a large part in drone development. Before reliable satellite imagery could be obtained, drones were attractive as low risk alternatives to manned fly-overs of risky territory. However, as satellite imagery became more reliable and of better resolution it was favoured over drones as a much less provocative way of collecting intelligence data: see Goebel, above n 11, ch 5. Other factors which contributed include: central processing units aboard UVs were much more powerful and could effectively manage a wider range of functions that were previously required human oversight; Roboticisation and miniaturisation meant that previously manual controls could be handed over to the central processing unit; Digitisation and miniaturisation made for lighter, more efficient vehicles, which could be deployed for longer periods and over longer distances. The efficiency gains permitted a wider range of on-board sensors to be installed. Improvements in sensor technology allowed a much wider spectrum of visual and non-visual data to be collected at a higher resolution than before. Digital compression overcame previously detrimental information ‘bottlenecks’ and permitted much more of this data to be transmitted to the controller. For information on the ‘digital revolution’ see generally, Stephen Hoare, Digital Revolution (20th Century Inventions) (Raintree, 1998).

[21] See Peter Van Blyenburg and Philip Butterworth-Hayes, ‘UVS International Status Report on US UAV Programmes’ in 2005 Year Book: UAVs Global Perspective (2005) 112.

[22] Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, ‘The Lessons of Afghanistan: War Fighting, Intelligence, and Force Transformation’ (2002) 26.

[23] Donald Rumsfield, quoted in ibid.

[24] R Ackerman, ‘Persistent Surveillance Comes into View’ (2002) Signal Magazine, 18.

[25] See, Steven Metz and Raymond Millen, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the 21st Century: Reconceptualizing Threat and Response (2004) Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) monographs <> (accessed 5 April 2012); Frank Hoffman, ‘Complex Irregular Warfare: The Next Revolution in Military Affairs’ (2006) 3(50) Orbis 395, 395–407; Mark Clodfelter ‘Airpower versus Asymmetric Enemies – A Framework for Evaluating Effectiveness’ (2002) 16(3) Air and Space Power Journal 37; Montgomery C Meigs, ‘Unorthodox thoughts about asymmetric warfare’ (2003) 33(2) Parameters, 5-6.

[26] See Randal Bowdish, Theater-Level Integrated Sensor-to-Shooter Capability and its Operational Implications (1995) US Joint Military Operations Report <> (accessed 5 April 2012).

[27] This as especially true in war zones where insurgency forces had accessibility to and expertise in using small surface-to-air missiles. See Cordesman, above n 22, 30.

[28] US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 2. See also, Gregory J Nardi, Autonomy, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, and the U.S. Army: Preparing for the Future by Examining the Past (2009) School of Advanced Military Studies United States Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 10,

<> (accessed 4 April 2010).

[29] Despite almost constantly being engaged in one war or another, there is a perception among many western military powers that, since the Vietnam conflict, the public has a low tolerance for domestic troop casualties arising out of foreign conflicts. See Charles Levinson, ‘Israeli Robots Remake Battlefield; Nation Forges Ahead in Deploying Unmanned Military Vehicles by Air, Sea and Land’ Wall Street Journal (New York, NY) 13 January 2010, A10. Although whether this is actually the case has been questioned: see Christopher Gelpi, Peter D Feaver and Jason Riefler, ‘Success Matters: Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq’ (2006) 3(30) International Security 7.

[30] Sarah Kreps, ‘Debating American Grand Strategy After Major War: American Grand Strategy after Iraq’ (2009) 4(53) Orbis 629.

[31] Ali A Jalali, ‘Winning in Afghanistan’ (2009) 39(1) Parameters 5.

[32] See Nardi, above n 28, 10.

[33] The Predator was developed for the CIA by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and is based on earlier Israeli UAV systems. See Yenne, above n 10, 56-57. For information on the Predator UAV see US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 4. See also Bill Gunston, ‘Unmanned Aircraft – Defence Applications of the RPV’ (1973) 4(188) Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies Journal 41.

[34] It is for this reason that predator and similar drone systems are often referred to as Unmanned Aerial Systems or (UAS). See R J Newman, ‘The Little Predator That Could’ (2002) 3(85) Air Force Magazine 48.

[35] This is because, not only is the pilot no longer on board, there is no longer the need for a cockpit, ejector seats, atmospheric protections and controls. Indeed removing the pilot also renders much of the armor required to protect a human occupant redundant. See Gunston, above n 33.

[36] For instance, Predator drones undertaking ISR duties carry a large range of sensor equipment including high-powered colour and night vision equipped cameras, infra-red and heat sensors. See Newman, above n 34, 51.

[37] Even though this term is used it is well accepted that, whilst the targeting may be precise the Hellfire’s collateral damage may not be. See Roy Braybrook, ‘Strike Drones: Persistent, Precise and Plausible’ (2009) 4(33) Armada International 21.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Newman, above n 34, 48; Cordesman, above n 22, 62-63; Stulberg, above n 9, 251.

[42] Cordesman, above n 22, 60-61.

[43] United States Air Force, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047 (2009) <> (accessed 1 February 2012) (‘US Flight Plan’).

[44] Eyes of the Army: U.S. Army Roadmap for UAS 2010-2035 (2010) U.S. Army UAS Center of Excellence, Report no ATZQ-CDI-C, 72

<> (accessed 20 March 2012) (‘US Army Roadmap’).

[45] The US Army views UAS’ success in its ability to ‘significantly augment mission accomplishment by reducing a Soldier’s workload and their exposure to direct enemy contact. The UAS serve as unique tools for the commander, which broaden battlefield situational awareness and ability to see, target, and destroy the enemy by providing actionable intelligence to the lowest tactical levels.’ See US Army Roadmap, ibid, 1.

[46] See Jack Beard, ‘Law and War in the Virtual Era’ (2009) 103(3) American Journal of International Law 409, 412.

[47] Newman, above n 34, 58.

[48] ‘Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)’, The New York Times (online), 5 March 2012,

< & sq=unmanned%20aerial%20vehicle & st=cse> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[49] Alan Brown, ‘The Drone Warriors’ Mechanical Engineering Magazine (online) January 2010 <> (accessed 1 March 2012).

[50] Stulberg, above n 9, 251.

[51] United States Government Accountability Office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Improved Planning and Acquisition Strategies Can Help Address Operational Challenges (Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 6 April 2006) 5.

[52] Levinson, above n 29; ‘Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)’, above n 48.

[53] Ibid.

[54] S A Kaiser, ‘Legal Aspects of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (2006) 55(3) Zeitschrift Fur Luft-Und Weltraum-Recht 344, 345-346.

[55] An informative list can be found at the US Flight Plan website, see above, n 43. A more comprehensive overview can be found at the Goebel Public Domain review of UAVs, see Goebel, above n 11. See also NATO’s three class classification system as set out in Strategic Concept of Employment for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO, 4 January 2010 <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[56] Although some of the micro rotary wing vehicles can take off of their own accord, and some micro UVs have been developed which can ‘cling’ to the sides of building then release themselves into flight. See Alexis Desbiens and Mark Cutkosky, ‘Landing and Perching on Vertical Surfaces with Microspines for Small Unmanned Air Vehicles’ (2009) 57 Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems 131.

[57] James F Abatti, Small Power: The Role of Micro and Small UAVs in the Future (2005) Air Command and Staff College, 184.

[58] For instance, the RQ-11 Raven can be stored in a backpack, is launched into the air by hand to allow troops in the field to ‘see over the next hill’ which could be over 10 kilometres away. See AeroVironment Inc, ‘AeroVironment Receives $37.9 Million In Orders For Digital Raven UAS, Digital Retrofit Kits’ (Press Release, 23 February 2010); AeroVironment Inc, ‘War on Terrorism Boosts Deployment of Mini-UAVs’ (Press Release, 08 July 2002). Both press releases are available at <> (accessed 15 April 2010).

[59] The CIA have reportedly used ultra-quiet micro-drones, ‘roughly the size of a pizza platter [that] are capable of monitoring potential targets at close range, for hours or days at a stretch. See Joby Warrick and Peter Finn, ‘Amid outrage over civilian deaths in Pakistan, CIA turns to smaller missiles’, Washington Post (Washington DC) 26 April 2010, A8.

[60] The Switchblade has been developed as part of the US Air Force Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) procurement program. See ‘US Air Force Awards AeroVironment $4.2m for Switchblade Loitering Munition System’, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) News (online), 16 February 2012 <> (accessed 19 March 2012); Gary Mortimer, ‘Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) to be deployed soon?’ sUAS News (online), 1 January 2011 <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[61] Kaiser, above n 54, 345.

[62] See US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 3-13.

[63] Which can be undertaken in the air. The Reaper is also able to be fitted with additional fuel tanks, allowing a fully laden drone (including hundreds of kilos of munitions) to stay aloft for up to two days. See Goebel, above n 11.

[64] The 4763-kg Reaper is cleared not only for Hellfire but also for the much heavier GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-38 Jdam and GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II, based on 227-kg (class) warheads. See Braybrook, above n 37.

[65] Alston, above n 4, 13; Unmanned Editor, ‘Specifications Data Sheet,’ Unmanned: Ground, Aerial, Sea and Space Systems, 1 July 2011

<> (accessed 13 March 2012).

[66] ‘Ocean-Going Drones’ (2006) 12(165) Aviation Week & Space Technology 56.

[67] It internalises all storage and weapons bays and is designed to avoid visual and radar detection. The Avenger is also favoured by the Navy given its rear turbofan propulsion system is much safer in naval scenarios. See Goebel, above n 11.

[68] US Company Northrop Grumman is currently developing the Fire X which will combine elements of both the MQ-8B Fire Scout and the Bell 407 helicopter, and will have a flight capacity of up to 14 hours. See website of Fire X Manufacturer: ‘Fire X: Medium Range Vertical Unmanned Aircraft System,’

<> (accessed 18 March 2012).

[69] US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 9.

[70] In 2007 for instance, a UAV resembling a sleek stealth bomber — minus the cockpit — was observed in Khandahar, and subsequently referred to as the ‘Beast of Kandahar’. In 2009 the US Air force confirmed that the UAV was in fact an ‘RQ-170 Sentinel’ tactical surveillance platform. No further information has been provided about the UAV. See Goebel, above n 11.

[71] The record set by the Global Hawk was 19,928 meters. See, Records: Experimental and New Technologies World Records, FAI Record File Num #7352 <> (accessed 18 March 2010).

[72] That means that only five Global Hawks are required to provide high altitude ISR for the whole of the Afghan landmass (and of those, only three need to be aloft at one time).

[73] Newman, above n 34, 52.

[74] Alston, above n 4.

[75] US Flight Plan, above n 43, 30.

[76] ‘“Swarm” UAV Reconnaissance Demonstrated’, Homeland Security Newswire (online), 19 August 2011 <> (accessed on 18 March 2012).

[77] Braybrook, above n 37.

[78] Lightweight air-to-surface missiles now under development will open the ground-attack role to far greater numbers of drone platforms. This in turn will pave the way for heavier, stealthy, dedicated unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). See Braybrook, ibid.

[79] ‘Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)’, above n 48.

[80] According to the UK based non-government organisation, Reprieve, the CIA drone programme in Pakistan began in 2004 under the Bush administration, and has expanded dramatically under the Obama Administration. See ‘Drone Strikes’, <> (accessed 15 March 2012); see also, Andrew Orr, ‘Unmanned, Unprecedented, and Unresolved: The Status of American Drone Strikes in Pakistan Under International Law’ (2011) 44 Cornell International Law Journal 730.

[81] Job Henning, ‘Embracing the Drone,’ The New York Times (online), 20 February 2012

< & scp=4 & sq=unmanned%20aerial%20vehicle & st=cse> (accessed 14 March 2012); Craig Whitlock, ‘U.S. drone base in Ethiopia is operational’, The Washington Post (online), 28 October 2011

<> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[82] According to media reports, Iran claims to have shot down a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Iranian airspace. See Saeed Kamall Dehghan, ‘Iran to exhibit US and Israeli Spy Drones,’ The Guardian (online), 15 December 2011

<> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[83] Agence France Presse, ‘US drones monitor events in Syria: Report’, DefenseNews, 18 February 2012,

<> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[84] David Pegg, ‘Drone Statistics Visualised’, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (online), 10 August 2011

<> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[85] Chris Woods and Christina Lamb, ‘Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals’, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (online), 4 February 2012

<> (accessed 14 March 2012); ‘Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ above n 48.

[86] See definition section above. Teleoperated UGVs are controlled much in the same way as a remote control toy car, with a human operating the vehicle a short distance away, either by sight or via on-board cameras.

[87] The most common role for teleoperated UGVs in contemporary conflicts is in the neutralisation of improvised explosive devices: US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 19.

[88] Levinson, above n 29.

[89] Nardi, above n 28, 40.

[90] SWORDS can be fitted with a range of high velocity, sniper, or machine guns or even rocket launchers. See Stew Magnuson, ‘Armed Robots Sidelined in Iraqi Fight’, National Defence Magazine (online) May 2008,

<> (accessed 15 April 2012).

[91] Ibid. However, it is unclear whether the unit has been used or not, as some concerns were raised about the UGVs reliability.

[92] K Jones, ‘Special Weapons Observation Remote Recon Direct Action System (SWORDS)’ in Platform Innovations and System Integration for Unmanned Air, Land and Sea Vehicles (Paper 36, Meeting Proceedings, AVT-SCI Joint Symposium) 36–1, 36–8.

[93] Katie Drummond, ‘Pentagon Seeks Robo-EMS to Rescue Wounded Warriors’, Wired (online) 3 March 2010,

<> (accessed 2 April 2012).

[94] See D W Gage, ‘UGV History 101: A Brief History of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) Development Efforts’ (1995) 13(3) Unmanned Systems Magazine, 2.

[95] In this respect both Russian and American space exploration programs have provided major advances to artificial intelligence systems. Indeed, the Russians, unable to afford manned moon exploration, instead placed resources into UVs, placing them at forefront of UGV development until quite recently. See Gage, ibid, 6.

[96] This can be attributed to the fact that there is an ongoing state of war in that country combined with a low tolerance for casualties amongst the populace.

[97] It does so, ‘in line with a set of guidelines specifically programmed for the site characteristics and security routines’. See the Manufacturer website for the Guardium, <

ugv.html> (accessed 12 April 2012).

[98] Levinson, above n 29.

[99] It can carry over 1000 kilos of weapons and munitions. See GENIUS Unmanned Ground Systems (2010) <

systems/avantguard.html> (last accessed 12 April 2012).

[100] See Brown, above n 49.

[101] Ronald C Arkin, Governing Lethal Behavior: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture (2007) Georgia Institute of Technology, 5.

[102] National Research Council (US), Technology Development for Army Unmanned Ground Vehicles (2002) 1-12.

[103] Office of the Secretary of Defense (US), Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, (2009) Report no FY2009–2034, 111-134 (‘Integrated Roadmap’).

[104] Although it is also designed to undertake perimeter patrols and surveillance, the US is currently focusing much of their UGV deployment strategy on gear transport for ground units. The Black-I Robotics UGV is designed to carry packs, food, water, and ammunition for light infantry forces, which it will follow automatically through a range of terrains for up to eight-hour shifts before refueling. See Black-I Robotics <> (accessed 14 May 2012).

[105] Integrated Roadmap, above n 103, 116.

[106] Ibid 118.

[107] Ibid.

[108] The UAPS20 is an ‘Unmanned Autopilot System’ designed by an Italian company, SIEL, which can be fitted to a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to turn it into a low cost USV that can undertake relatively complex waypoint navigation as well as teleoperated control. Up to fifteen boats can simultaneously be controlled for a wide range of tasks, from harbor patrol and surveillance, to ordinance countermeasures and even as a UAV or UUV launch platform. See SIEL, <> (accessed 20 April 2012). The company also cites the possibility of using the system for ‘naval targets’ but does not provide any further information on how this may work, quite possibly because the most obvious weaponised use of the system would be as a boat-bomb.

[109] See RAFAEL, <

en/Marketing.aspx> (accessed 12 March 2010).

[110] Such as the use of an explosive laden motorboat against the USS Cole in 2000. See Erik Sofge ‘Robot Boats Hunt High-Tech Pirates on the High-Speed Seas’ Popular Mechanics (online) 1 October 2009,

<> (accessed 12 March 2012).

[111] S J Corfield and J M Young, ‘Unmanned surface vehicles – game changing technology for naval operations’ in G N Roberts and Robert Sutton (eds), Advances in Unmanned Marine Vehicles (2006) IEE Control Series, 313.

[112] Which operates it in a semi-autonomous manner to patrol harbors, gather ISR, laying and remove ordinance and engage in electronic warfare. See Matthew Graham, Unmanned Surface Vehicles: An Operational Commander’s Tool for Maritime Security (2008) Joint Military Operations Department, Naval War College, 10 <> (accessed 20 April 2012).

[113] See Sofge, above n 110. The US Navy is currently exploring the capabilities of its Sea Fox USV – “a remote controlled five-meter rigid hull inflatable boat” – to deploy non-lethal weapons including “a directional acoustic hailer, eye dazzling laser and flash-bang munitions.” See Unmanned Editor, ‘US Navy Equips Unmanned Surface Vehicles with Non-Lethal Weapons,’ Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) News (online), 7 February 2012,

<> (accessed 19 March 2012); See also US Navy website, <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[114] Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) Phase 1, (2010)

<> (accessed 20 April 2010).

[115] Ibid.

[116] DARPA is currently soliciting proposals for phases 2-4 which will involve designing, building and testing the vessel. See Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Tactical Technology Office, Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trial Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV)

<> (accessed 18 March 2012).

[117] During 2003, Australian, British and US UUVs cleared over 2.5 million square meters of the Iraqi coast of mines. Global Security Org, Intelligence Collection Programs and Systems (14 May 2008)

<> (accessed 20 April 2010).

[118] Including the US and the UK in 2004: see ‘Unmanned Remote Minehunting System Installed for USS Momsen Commissioning’ Space Daily (online) 31 August 2004, <> Nicolas von Kospoth, Royal Navy Introduces New Reconnaissance UUV (24 February 2010) Defpro.focus <> (accessed 12 April 2012).

[119] Department of Navy (US), The Navy Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) Master Plan (9 November 2004) United States Navy Report

<> (accessed 12 April 2010) (‘UUV Master Plan’).

[120] Based on four pillars ‘Force Net, Sea Shield, Sea Strike, and Sea Base’. See Henderson, above n 16, 57.

[121] UUV Master Plan, above n 119.

[122] iCD research estimates the global value to be at US$7 billion: see, Snapshot: The Global Market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[123] Steven Zagola, David Rockwell and Philip Finnegan, World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems: Market Profile and Forecast, Executive Summary, 2011 < & view=frontpage & Itemid=1> (accessed 19 March 2012) (‘Teal Group Executive Summary’).

[124] In 2011, US companies built approximately 1,800 drones out of the 2,600 made worldwide. See Andrew Rettman, ‘EU firms Join Gold Rush on Drones’, EU Observer (online), 17 February 2012, <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[125] UK and French Defense Departments are currently sponsoring a joint program called Telemos, which aims to produce a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UCAV by 2020. See the Manufacturer website for BAE Systems: <> (accessed 17 March 2012). In response, German and Italian companies are working together to develop equivalent MALE technology: see Unmanned Editor, ‘Cassidian, Alenia Join Forces for UAV Projects’, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles News (online), 20 December 2011 <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[126] Cameron Stuart, ‘Drones, Lives and Liberties,’ The Australian (Sydney), 1 March 2012, 11.

[127] The market leaders in UV technology are the US, Japan and Israel, with France following closely behind. See UVS International, UAV Categorisation, in Yearbook: UAVs Global Perspective (2004) 156.

[128] Teal Group Executive Summary, above n 123.

[129] Noel Sharkey, quoted in Rettman, above n 124.

[130] In fact, the first ‘golden age’ in UV technology occurred under the oceans more than a decade before it did in the air. See Henderson, above n 16, 57.

[131] Stephanie Showalter, ‘The Legal Status of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles’ (2004) 38(1) Marine Technology & Society Journal 80.

[132] For instance, armies have provided drones to police forces for trials, air forces have similarly provided UVs to search and rescue teams to deal with large-scale emergencies. See R Johnson, NASA drones aid firefighters (2008) Electronic Engineering Times 1535, 9-10; Randal C Archibold, ‘U.S. Adds Drones to Fight Smuggling’ New York Times (New York) 8 December 2009, A.25; and Graham Warwick, ‘Drug Drones’ (2009) 170 Aviation Week & Space Technology 22.

[133] Stafford writes that when ‘commercial drones do take off, four groups of businesses would be looking to cash in. Academic researchers ... [with] associations with small, specialist companies that build UAVs. Older commercial companies ... have long sold drones as toys. A handful of major corporations already have a toe-hold in the market. And military contractors have perfected the secret designs of the world’s best-performing drones — those already used by air forces and spy agencies.’ See Ned Stafford, ‘Spy in the sky’ (2007) 7130(445) Nature 808.

[134] David S Alberts, The Unintended Consequences of Information Age Technologies: Avoiding the Pitfalls, Seizing the Initiative (University Press of the Pacific, 2004) 26–28.

[135] Indeed, modern military vehicles and platforms often rely on a mix of military grade and commercially available technology. Jay Stowsky, ‘Secrets to shield or share? new dilemmas for military R&D policy in the digital age’ (2004) 2(3) Research Policy 257. As Gormley notes, ‘Military breakthroughs are increasingly resulting from commercial, rather than secret military, research’. See Dennis M Gormley, ‘Hedging Against the Cruise-Missile Threat’ (1998) 40(1) Survival 92.

[136] As the US Administration admits, ‘Technological advances in propulsion that were previously driven by military-sponsored research are now largely driven by commercial interests—fuel cells by the automotive industry, batteries by the computer and cellular industries, and solar cells by the commercial satellite industry. [UVs] are therefore more likely to rely on COTS [commercial off the shelf] or “COTS-derivative” systems.’ See US OSD Roadmap, above n 8, 52.

[137] For instance, Reaper drones are now deployed by the international anti-piracy task force to scout for Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The drones are operated from a base in Germany to follow and record movements of suspect pirate vessels. Although many boats have been captured it has been extremely hard to prove that they were involved in piracy. The ability of the drones to capture video of suspect movements, over long periods of time (up to 18 hours) without detection makes them perfect for the detection and evidence-gathering role.

See Will Ross, ‘Drones Scour the Sea for Pirates’ BBC News (online) 10 November 2009 <> (accessed 15 March 2012).

[138] Countries like Australia that have larger border areas are reportedly trialling semi-autonomous patrols of large areas of its northern approaches. See Ari Sharp ‘Unmanned aircraft could soon patrol borders’ The Age (online), 6 April 2010

<> (accessed 1 May 2012).

[139] In late 2009, the US Department of Homeland Security expanded its use of drones into external jurisdictions, including the Caribbean and South America to spot and track drug smugglers. See Archibold, above n 132. The US Navy is also trialling drones over unspecified countries, seeking to use them to detect submersible vehicles that have been used to smuggle drugs into the US. See Warwick, above n 132.

[140] US Predator drones for instance have been used to patrol the Canadian and Mexican borders. See Warwick, above n 132. In Europe, the EU’s border agency, Frontex, is reportedly trialling UAV surveillance in Greece, the main entry point for asylum seekers into the EU. Rettman, above n 124.

[141] Paul Lewis, ‘CCTV in the sky: police plan to use military-style spy drones’, The Guardian (online) 23 January 2010,

<> (accessed 10 April 2012). However, note an earlier talk by the Home Office which was reported by La Franchi. See Peter La Franchi, ‘UK Home Office plans national police UAV fleet’, Flight International (online) 17 July 2007,

<> (accessed 10 April 2012). Police in Australia are also trialling drones which may be used for detecting drug crops and finding missing persons. See Kate Kyriacou, ‘Queensland Police trial hi-tech surveillance drones to chase criminals’, The Courier Mail (online), 14 March 2012

<> (accessed 19 March 2012). Following an incident in which a police helicopter was shot down in Rio di Janerio, police are now using Israeli UAVs to patrol favelas or shantytowns. See ‘State of the Art’ (Summer 2011) 1(2) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[142] Although no conviction was recorded. See, ‘Unlicensed police drone grounded’, BBC News (online), 16 February 2010,

<> (accessed 10 April 2012).

[143] Ibid.

[144] David Hambling, ‘Future Police: Meet the UK’s Armed Robot Drones’ Wired News (online) 10 February 2010 <> (accessed 25 May 2012).

[145] See Lewis, above n 141; Stephen Graham, ‘Olympics 2012 Security: Welcome to Lockdown London’ The Guardian (online) 12 March 2012,

<> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[146] Yvonne Headington, ‘UGVs Ok with UK Police; UAVs up in the Air,’ (Summer 2011) 1(2) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical, 9 – 11,

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[147] See Lewis, above n 141. However, the authors’ could find no official verification of this. The Sheriff’s Office of Montgomery County, Texas has reportedly been operating a Shadowhawk drone with the capacity to fire a Taser gun since November 2011. It is unclear however, whether the drone has been used in an armed capacity. See ‘Tase of Our Lives’, The Daily (online), 12 March 2012 <> (accessed 14 March 2012).

[148] ‘Eurosatory 2004 - Tecknisolar Seni designs armed mini-UAV for anti-terror operations’, Flight International (online), 22 June 2004, <> (accessed 25 May 2010).

[149] Ibid.

[150] See iDrone Website, < (accessed 20 March 2012).

[151] See Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd website: <> (18 April 2012).

[152] Douglas McDonald, ‘Public Imprisonment by Private Means - The Re-Emergence of Private Prisons and Jails in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia’ (1994) 34 British Journal of Criminology 29, 29.

[153] Richard Bloss, ‘By air, land and sea, the unmanned vehicles are coming’ (2007) 34(1) The Industrial Robot 12, 14.

[154] Ibid.

[155] Fire fighters can be blinded by smoke and debris during firefighting operations and wander into areas that are dangerous. For instance, certain regions of the fire may be too hot for humans, or areas of the ground may be covered in ash that would cause the firefighters’ boots to melt.

[156] Heat detecting and radar equipment were retrofitted to the drones so that they could ‘see through’ the smoke layer to provide fire fighters with up-to-the-minute intelligence on the fire as well as any obstructions, hazards or impediments not visible to human eyes on the ground. See Johnson, above n 132, 9-10. Despite resistance in Europe, small UAVs are also being used to monitor fire ‘hot spots’ by fire services in Hungary and Spain. Lindsay Voss, ‘Unmanned Systems vs. Wildfires’ (Summer 2011) 1(2) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical 30, 32-33 <> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[157] Saira Syed, ‘Drone Markets Target Asia for Growth,’ BBC News (online), 16 February 2012 <> (accessed 15 March 2012).

[158] Brian Yamauchi and Pavlo Rudakevych, ‘Griffon: A Man-Portable Hybrid UGV/UAV’ (2004) 5(31) Industrial Robot 443, 443.

[159] Brian Ashcraft, ‘Just Press “Save”: Disaster search-and-rescue in robot-crazy Japan’ (2009) Popular Science (online) 14 May 2009,

<> (accessed 2 February 2010).

[160] David Axe, ‘Autonomous Flying Ambulances Could Save Troops’ (2007) Popular Science (online) 7 November 2007 <> (accessed 2 February 2010).

[161] Carl E Nehme, Modeling Human Supervisory Control in Heterogeneous Unmanned Vehicle Systems (PhD thesis, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009) 28.

[162] Ibid.

[163] Brett Davis, ‘Discovery and Exploration: Ocean Observatories Initiative Takes Shape Under the Oceans’ (Winter 2011) 1(4) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical (online) 7-11 <> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[164] Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are developing drone technology which would repair aging subterranean pipes from the inside using carbon fibre. See Tom Vasich, No Mere Pipe Dream University of California - Irvine <> (accessed 12 January 2012).

[165] Howard Cannon, Extended Earthmoving with an Autonomous Excavator, (Master's thesis, Technical Report CMU-RI-TR-99-10, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, 1999).

[166] The nontrivial navigational requirements for civilian motor traffic are simply beyond most of today’s artificial intelligence systems. Semi-autonomous UVs must deal with complex road rules, highly congested traffic, varying road and weather conditions and non-automotive traffic such as cyclists and pedestrians. More to the point, they must deal with other vehicles that may not be strictly adhering to the same road rules they will be programmed with along with unexpected events, emergencies or impediments (such as a child or animal straying onto the road).

[167] See, for instance, futurist and urban designer Michael Arth’s, forthcoming book, ‘The Labors of Hercules: Modern Solutions to 12 Herculean Problems’ (online) 2009 <> (accessed 26 May 2010).

[168] Luke Vandezande, ‘California may be next to legislate autocars’, AutoGuide (online), 1 March 2012, <

news/2012/03/california-may-be-next-to-legislate-autonomous-cars.html> (accessed 25 March 2012) ; Tom Vanderbilt, ‘Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future is here’, Wired (online) 20 January 2012,

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[169] John Markhoff, ‘Google Cars Drive Themselves, In Traffic’, The New York Times (online), 9 October 2010,

< & _r=2> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[170] Ibid.

[171] See for example, the Chevrolet EN-V developed by General Motors, which is a two seat electric urban mobility vehicle. Audi and Volkswagen developed the Autonomous Audi TT which completed a 14,110-foot mountain summit in 2010. Japanese company ZMP is currently selling its autonomous vehicle, Robocar to researchers for US $84,000. See ‘State of the Art,’ (Spring 2011) 1(1) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical (online) 21,

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[172] Tara Kelly, ‘BMW Self-Driving Car: Carmaker Shows off Hands-free Car on Autobahn,’ The Huffington Post (online), 26 January 2012

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[173] Peter Murray, ‘A Look at BMW’s Semi-autonomous Driving Car’, Singularity Hub (online), 2 February 2012 <> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[174] Ibid.

[175] Peter Murray, ‘Driverless Cars Bought Closer to Reality as Nevada Passes Bill’, Singularity Hub (online), 28 June 2011

<> (accessed 25 March 2012). Similar bills have also been introduced in California, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona. See Amanda Crawford, ‘Google’s Driverless Cars get Boost as California Mimics Nevada’, Business Week (online), 1 March 2012,

<> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[176] The Challenge aims to develop ‘technology that will keep warfighters off the battlefield and out of harm’s way. The Urban Challenge features autonomous ground vehicles maneuvering in a mock city environment, executing simulated military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.’ See DARPA, Urban Challenge Overview, <> (accessed 2 April 2012). However, a civilian car maker has been eying the technology, see Jon Stewart, ‘Robot cars race around California’ BBC News (online) 5 November 2007

<> (accessed, 25 May 2012).

[177] Jerry Hirsch, ‘Cars that Communicate Could Improve Safety’, The Los Angeles Times (online), 20 February 2012 <,0,3927662.story?track=rss> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[178] Stephanie Levy, ‘Car talk: the science and politics behind vehicles that talk to each other and the roadways’, (Spring 2011) 1(1) Unmanned Systems: Mission Critical (online) 28 <> (accessed 25 March 2012).

[179] For example, under existing UK regulations, only UAVs lighter than 20kg can be legally flown and operators must have a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority. See Ryan Gallagher, ‘Surveillance drone industry plans PR effort to counter negative image’, The Guardian (online), 2 February 2012

<> (accessed 19 March 2012). In the US, Congress passed a Bill in February 2012 which will allow for integration of privately owned drones into commercial airspace by 2015. See Brian Bennett, ‘FAA moves toward allowing unmanned drones in U.S. airspace,’ Los Angeles Times (online), 8 March 2012

<> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[180] For example, a Hextacopter drone was been used by Australia’s Nine Network, in a failed attempt to obtain aerial footage of government detention centres for asylum seekers on Christmas Island. See Paige Taylor and Nicolas Perpitch, ‘Sixty Minutes drone crashes off death cliff’, The Australian (online), 14 May 2011 <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[181] The first instance of civilian drone journalism to gain international attention was in 2011, when a freelance journalist used a small drone to take birds eye footage of a violent protest in Warsaw. See Mark Corcoran, ABC News (online), ‘Drone Journalism Takes Off’, 21 February 2012 <> (accessed 19 March 2012).

[182] Surf LifeSaving Australia is trialling UAVs to monitor beaches for sharks and civilians in trouble. See Cameron Stuart, ‘Drones, Lives and Liberties’, The Australian, 1 March 2012, 11.

[183] Unarmed UAVs have been trialled by the US State Department to help protect American Embassies and Consulates in Iraq. See ‘Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)’, The New York Times (online), 5 March 2012 <> (accessed 15 March 2012).

[184] UK Ministry of Defence, The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Joint Doctrine Note 2/11 (JDN 2/11), 30 March 2011, Concl-1.

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