June 26, 2022

The widespread use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States to combat and kill insurgents opened a new chapter in the history of the conflict. These soaring and remote-controlled aircraft were able to attack targets with impunity while operators worked safely in a ground control station.

To keep the crews out of danger, the drones were also politically cheap to use over dangerous skies. Now more and more countries like China and Turkey are gaining this military capability for their own ends.

“At the moment we have seen over 100 countries around the world that have used military drones, and that number is growing significantly,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, project manager for humanitarian disarmament at the Dutch peace organization PAX. “We have over 20 states that use armed drones in or outside of armed conflict.”

Although larger and more complex drones like the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper are more powerful, they are not cheap to develop or operate, which is why smaller drones are becoming more ubiquitous in conflict areas.

Limiting the proliferation of these smaller drones and the ability to arm them is a government nightmare for government agencies around the world.

“Drones are just model airplanes with great sensors. All of these airplanes have a dual purpose and have been used in the civilian sector,” said Ulrike Franke, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “In fact, drones have grown enormously in the civilian population in the last five to ten years, so it’s really difficult to control their export.”

Check out the video above to find out why the multibillion dollar armed drone market is in demand beyond the US.