Targeted killings through armed drones

Technological developments have an increased impact on the protection of the right to life. Depersonalization of the use of force has been or is being introduced through two generations of unmanned systems: armed drones and fully autonomous weapons. Both in armed conflict and in law enforcement.

As of 2020, at least 102 countries had acquired an active military drone inventory, and around 40 possess, or are in the process of procuring, armed drones. 35 States are believed to possess the largest and deadliest class.

Since 2015, armed drones have also been used against domestic targets on national territories, within and outside non-international armed conflicts.

At least 20 armed non-State actors have reportedly obtained armed and unarmed drone systems,16 Armed groups have used commercially available "off-the shelf" systems and drones sold by States and developed their own drones.

Exports of commercial drone technologies have contributed to the proliferation of drones and reduced their cost. It is expected that more countries will develop or acquire armed drones and that, within the next 10 years, over 40% of drones will be armed, with some 90% of these reportedly falling in the largest and most lethal category of drones.

Related reports

  • Targeted killings through armed drones and the case of Iranian General Quassem Soleimani: A/HRC/44/38
  • The role of new technologies: A/71/372 (para. 64-86)
  • Study on targeted killings: A/HRC/14/24/Add.6

Additional information