Issue Brief on “Drones: The New Frontier in Geopolitical Arena”

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The dynamics of battlefields have been revolutionized with the advent of highly sophisticated military drones. The last five years have witnessed four significant interstate wars: Libya, Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the ongoing Ukraine conflict, in which drones have been decisive.[1] On February 2, 2024, the U.S. defense agency announced its approval for the sale of 31 MQ-9B predator-armed drones to India at an estimated cost of US$3.99 billion. This aims to enhance India’s surveillance capabilities, particularly along the LOC with China and Pakistan.[2] India is investing immense resources in the procurement of military drones to help secure its extra-regional security imperatives, and poses a threat to Pakistan. In this new era of drone warfare, Pakistan is also developing its indigenous drones to not be at a disadvantage in case of any conflict.

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone is piloted remotely or on its own through software-controlled flight plans within its embedded systems. These flight plans are coordinated with the sensors onboard and a Global Positioning System (GPS). It uses aerodynamic forces to achieve vehicle lift.[3] UAVs gained prominence in the military realm as relatively cheap weapons with immense destabilizing potential in the 2010s.[4]  UAVs were designed to provide commanders with an aerial observation system in the combat zones to reduce the risk of casualties by providing reliable and real-time intelligence that was unattainable by aircraft and satellite systems.[5] Drones were extensively used in the War on Terror. In addition to their initial Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, drones are now being equipped with missiles to take on further tasks like counterinsurgency, force protection, infrastructure defense, and critical target assaults.[6] Low-cost, technological sophistication, and easy employment are some characteristics that caused the proliferation of drones throughout the world for combat purposes.[7]

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