Drones for Peace
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), commonly referred to as “drones,” have been the subject of much discussion surrounding potential operations in Syria, primarily in the context of enforcing a “no-fly” zone or enforcement role similar to their role in Libya and modeled after operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This LISD White Paper examines the prospects of the use of RPAs in Syria and possible future humanitarian crises. In conflict zones, deploying RPAs as currently operated would likely be counterproductive to political aims in an enforcement capacity. Smaller RPAs, however, operating in a number of tactical and other roles, could play a critical role in ameliorating humanitarian crises—for instance in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Tasks may include monitoring key sites designated by the international community and allowed by the host country government, to providing humanitarian aid, to the over-watch of convoy movements and possible general surveillance functions. The stigma of RPAs given their use in other conflicts and elsewhere must be overcome to allow RPAs to be evaluated and used as an instrument for monitoring, assisting, and aiding in humanitarian crises among other roles, not just as (offensive) intelligence or weapons platforms. Examples of RPA use in natural disasters and relief operations in Southeast Asia and pending models for search and rescue operations in the United States and beyond provide a blueprint for similar RPA operations, with their scope limited by the mutual consent of parties to the conflict.