Few recent national security developments have been as controversial as the increased US reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more colloquially known as “drones.” While UAVs have multiple peaceful and commercial applications, heated debates about the use of lethal UAV strikes away from traditional, territorially bounded battlefields have tended to crowd out a broader and more nuanced discussion of US UAV policy. This report represents a preliminary effort to offer analysis and recommendations that could help shape and guide US UAV policy going forward. It looks at the military and national security benefits of UAV technologies, analyzes our current approaches to UAV development and export, and seeks to contextualize the strategic questions relating to the use of lethal UAVs outside traditional battlefields. Ultimately, it offers eight detailed recommendations for overhauling UAV strategy; improving oversight, accountability and transparency; developing forward-looking international norms relating to the use of lethal force in nontraditional settings; and devising sound UAV export control and research and development policies.
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