The Race for Drones


In just the last ten years, a growing number of states have sought to join the race to develop and sell ever-more sophisticated drones on the global market. While today the market remains stratified between makers and takers of drones, the gradual emergence of a drones arms race will have some important and potentially dangerous consequences for the international system. The emergence of a race for drones will reshape long-simmering conflicts and rivalries around the world in three ways. First, the proliferation of drones will reset the rules and norms governing surveillance and reconnaissance. Second, drones will become increasingly useful to governments in testing the strategic commitments and the nerves of their rivals. Third, the worldwide proliferation of drones will multiply the risks of conflict spirals stemming from accidents or hijacked drones. Given these risks, Washington’ should take a leading role in slowing the global race for drones and in developing strict legal and normative mechanisms to govern drone usage and sales in the future.

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