APPG Inquiry into the Use of Armed Drones: Working with Partners


The APPG on Drones has launched a new inquiry to analyse the emerging technologies of drones, the ways in which the UK works with allies with regard to the use of armed drones, and make recommendations to ensure an appropriate level of transparency and accountability for these operations in Parliament.

The inquiry will build on the JCHR report on ‘The Government’s policy on the use of drones for targeted killing’, which has cast doubt on the legal basis, procedure and oversight for both the UK’s own drones policy and the UK’s support for the United States’ covert drone programme – which is now in the hands of President Trump.

The inquiry panel has received 17 written evidence submissions, and conducted the following oral evidence sessions:

  • Evidence session 1: Military and operational issues (open session, General Sir Richard Barrons – former Commander Joint Forces Command, Air Marshall Greg Bagwell, Air Marshall Iain McNicholl)
  • Evidence session 2: Issues underlying surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence sharing, and involvement in the US drone programme (open session, Namir Shabibi – investigator, Jennifer Gibson – Reprieve, Eric King – Queen Mary University)
  • Evidence session 3: Discussion around the ethical, strategic and legal issues around targeting, and civilian protection (open session, Dr Larry Lewis – author of Obama’s Presidential Policy Guidance, and Chris Woods – AirWars). 

  • Evidence Session 4: The UK’s security and defence alliances (closed session with former National Security Advisor, Mark Lyall Grant)

  • Evidence Session 5: The emerging technology relevant to unmanned weapons systems (open session, Dr Tom Simpson – University of Oxford & Professor Stuart Russel – University of California, Berkeley)

  • Evidence Session 6: International and domestic legal frameworks relevant to the use of armed drones (open session, Dr Marko Milanovic – University of Nottingham School of Law & Professor Nils Melzer – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture)

The inquiry comes at a time when the UK intends to acquire up to 26 new Reaper variant or ‘Protector’ drones, plans to increase interoperability and collaborative working between Reaper users are underway, and the MoD is conducting a Defence policy review into remotely piloted aircraft systems. The APPG on Drones is pleased to welcome Professor Michael Clarke, former Director General of RUSI, to chair and lead the inquiry.