Rolling Stone has an excellent article
on the United States' use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, more commonly known as drones
). While the US has had a virtual monopoly on UAVs for military use, most
analysts believe the playing field will be leveled over the next five
to ten years. Prices are decreasing and availability is increasing for commercial surveillance and weapons-platform models. There is also a growing Internet-based, do-it-yourself movement
that is placing UAV technology in the hands of people without nation-state budgets. The future will potentially bring both opportunities and threats to the NGO community. On one hand, think about a UAV being used for assessments and monitoring during a humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, if targeted against an organization, a UAV presents some very serious security concerns that may be difficult to mitigate. The prudent humanitarian security practitioner would be wise to pay attention to drone developments over the coming years; particularly their adoption and use by state and non-state actors.
Note: US readers may be interested in a recent FOIA document
that reveals which public and private entities are authorized by the FAA to fly UAVs domestically.