One of the most updated technological applications that have been invented in recent times is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft which in common parlance can be termed as drones. Time, again it has been proved that drones have multifarious uses. Especially during the lockdown phase of covid-19, the application of drone technology became much more pronounced. Although the most recent application of drones has been found in the sector of delivery of goods, the use of drones in the field of warfare has been long in practice.
With globalization and intermixing of various races and cultures, there has been an increase in industrialization, urbanization, and the like. As a result of the constant increase in industrialization, there has been a parallel need for an increase in the number of employees in the service sector. With the increase in the demand of employees, there has also been an equivalent increase in their value. The invention of drone technology has its pros and cons.
This has proved to be disadvantageous especially in the service sector because as the term ‘unmanned’ suggests, the entire system is regulated automatically and devoid of any physical human navigator, prevents the hiring of manual labor.
When it comes to the concept of the legality of drones and the extent of the legality there have been several debates followed by several legislations- both national and international. The application of drones sometimes involves numerous privacy issues. The drones being unmanned and automatically navigated can traverse to any particular area and this, in turn, may infringe the privacy of third parties.
In order to protect this, there are green spaces which are certified areas where drones can be flown. Apart from this, there is also the system of using a quad-copter for target practice in order to ensure that the concerned drone reaches exactly those areas for which it has been designed. The entire system of registration of drones is compulsory and is regulated by governmental bodies and agencies mainly by the aviation department of a country’s governance.
There has been a great deal of confusion over whether drones can be flown over private property. Numerous debates have cropped up and one category feels that the ownership of a particular property exists up to 500 feet above the ground level on which the concerned property is situated. On the other hand, few people are of the opinion that drones can never be flown over the private property until and unless permission has been expressly or impliedly granted by the owner of that particular property. They have further opined that in case the drones are flown over private properties without permission then not only will it lead to a case of negligence on the part of the flyer but will also result in trespass.
Evolution of Drones into AWS (autonomous weapons systems)
Therefore, it is quite evident that flying drones itself involves several intricate issues and when it comes to drone warfare it may lead to not only an infringement of several privacy policies but at the same time gives rise to several legal questions and the validity of warfare.
During the time of drone warfare not only are the drones being launched to subdue a normal system of mankind but at the same time, they are being flown through private areas. The entire concept of drone warfare has brought upon it several questions and the same has been highly criticized. The system of drone warfare was one of the most common modes of war-fare during the first decade of the 21st century because it did not lead to the loss of any soldier of the attacker but it surely caused the destruction of various degrees of targeted locations. One of the initial Drone Warfare was conducted by the United States of America during the reign of Bush under his president-ship around 2001.
Most of the aerial operations are conducted in spaces that are owned not by a particular country. Any aerial operation may it be in outer space or in the inner space involves a conglomeration of laws mainly in the form of soft laws in order to set forth uniform rules in the form of conventions, treaties, protocols.
Soft laws are those laws that are not binding in nature but if they are ratified by a particular country then it becomes a liability and an obligation on the part of the concerned country to include such convention or the point undertaken in the convention in their domestic or municipal laws.
There is no direct convention or treaty preventing drone warfare. However, there are conventions promoting peace and preventing the use of force, which can be applied in regulating the use of drone warfare. The United Nations Charter has a provision under Article 51 that if any nation-state faces an attack then it can go ahead with self-defense techniques or collective defense, but the same must be conducted in accordance with the doctrine of proportionality.
Although there is a considerable difference between drones and missiles, drones have been considered to be a type of cruise missiles. Considering the same, it can be stated that the use of drones especially in the field of warfare has been an inclusion since World War- II.
In fact, the V-2 Missiles manufactured by Germany was a concern igniter for the world at large. The attacking capability and propelling capacity were high thereby making it lethal in nature. Drones were not exactly in the market during the said period, but by 2001 the use of drones in warfare increased considerably when America launched drones in the form of missiles in Afghanistan. Consequently, drones were also launched in Syria, Yemen, and several adjoining areas. The silence in law over the use of drones instigated their abundant use thereby curtailing basic Human Rights. There is a norm that people must not be attacked without any prior knowledge.
However, the use of drones defeats this basic principle. The most recent series of attacks that have been undertaken by Russia over Syria has exposed how brutal drone attacks can be. Not only has it destroyed cities and civilizations but has also affected mankind enormously.
The Silene of Legislations:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles not only affect mankind and civilization physically but at the same time, there is massive psychological destruction. The surveillance capabilities can cause devastating effects by violating a greater expected intimacy. There is a loss of dignity and honor of the person who is being attacked. Apart from this, the code of ethics is severely hampered. The basic rule under Human Rights Principles constituted under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that no nation-state should ever be attacked from the back meaning that if a nation-state is being attacked then the state should have prior knowledge of the same.
This principle is also a part of the Principle of Natural Justice. But the new forms of weapons have led to a loss of virtue, a loss of code of ethics and has destroyed professionalism in the military. The International Committee of the Red Cross prohibits and condemns the use of Autonomous Weapons System. This is mainly because these are extensively lethal in nature. There is a principle followed by the committee which provides that any weapon having a mortality rate equal to or greater than 25% must not be used on the battlefield.
Armed drones often result in the death of soldiers in a ratio of 1: 4 thereby violating the principle laid down by ICRC. The Geneva Convention comes with a lot of additional protocols. It was drafted in 1949 and during the said period Autonomous Weapons Systems was still not recognized. This is extremely disadvantageous in nature because Geneva Convention is one of the most important organizations that regulate the conduct of armed conflict and having no provision prohibiting the same in the convention further indicates that a larger portion of the soft laws and global legislations have lacuna when it comes to the prohibition of armed drones.
So what can be done to prevent the menacing effect of armed drones? There is a great deal of collaboration, coordination, and mutual understanding needed in order to bring the world to peace. The three most important stakeholders are the Nation States, the citizens, and the non-governmental organizations.
The primary responsibility lies with the government of every Nation-State to regulate the use of armed forces under the aviation department, along with which the legislature must take into consideration that there should be domestic or municipal laws of each country regulating the use of armed drones and the provisions in relation to the same. There must be sufficient penalties so that every user is well aware that he or she will have to pay heavily if any offense is committed.
Next, it is the duty of every citizen to act responsibly because every drone user is ultimately a citizen of his/her nation. Lastly, it is the duty of the non-governmental organizations to create awareness in each level and each class of the society. Apart from the duty of these three stakeholders, the final duty lies with the Global Organizations to undertake conventions and treaties dealing specifically with the use of armed drones. Only if all these units and stakeholders function in collaboration with one another then the use of Autonomous Weapon System can be regulated and controlled and operated in such a manner so that it does not pose any threat to mankind and civilization.