The U.S. is quickly losing its monopoly on both armed and unarmed military drones. What happens when such technology becomes the norm?
The United States has been the world’s undisputed drone juggernaut for the better part of the past decade.
With 161 armed predator drones at its disposal (a 2012 estimate which has likely gotten larger), the U.S. military has been able to carry out thousands of drone strikes, resulting in thousands more deaths, and has shown no sign of relenting.
But if there’s one tried and true lesson that can be applied to technology, it’s that anything made once can surely be replicated.
As formidable as the U.S. drone program has become, in 2015, it’s now far from the only players in the game–a trend that many forecast is going nowhere but up.
Below are five facts that show the imminent rise of a new era of drone warfare.
1. At least 87 nations now possess drones
Peter Singer, head of the Center for 21st Century Intelligence at Brookings Institute, said in 2013 that the U.S. monopoly on drone technology “ended years ago.”
Singer was right the mark. In 2015, over 87 nations now possess drone technology which they use to surveil their own territory, as well as territories abroad, making the U.S. far from the only eyes in the sky.
According to the Government Accountability Office, this trend has been in the works since 2005, when the number of countries that possessed drones numbered just 41.
2. At least 23 countries are developing (or have developed) armed drones
According to a Rand report in 2014, 23 countries are currently developing (or have developed) their very own armed drones–some of such countries, like Russia, China, and Iran having somewhat shaky relations with the U.S.
map from Rand “Armed and Dangerous? UAVs and U.S. Security.”
3. Seven countries currently possess fully-deployable armed drones
Of the 23 countries who are developing armed drones, seven of them have developed drones which could be flown in combat today.
Excluding the U.S., these countries include the United Kingdom, Israel, China and (possibly) Iran, Pakistan and Russia.
4. Drones are becoming cheaper to construct
This stands in stark contrast with an F-22–one of the Air Force’s most advanced fighter planes–which costs about 10 times the amount.
5. Countries are showing increasing interest in procuring armed drones of their own
Israel–the number one exporter of drones and drone technology–has sold their technology to over two dozen countries worldwide.
This has successfully extended the ability to own and operate drones to a much wider range of countries than ever before.