Drones on the Frontline: Charting the Use of Drones in the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict and How Their Use May Be Violating International Humanitarian Law

Saba Sotoudehfar, Jeremy Julian Sarkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been widely recognized as one of the most significant threats to peace and security in Europe since World War II. The large-scale proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles in this conflict reveals how drones and autonomous weapons systems are transforming warfare. At the same time, they are raising concerns about the way conflicts are being fought, and how international peace and security is being secured through international humanitarian law. This article therefore provides a deep empirical analysis of the types of drones being deployed in the war between Russia and Ukraine, and their specific contributions to the conflict. The study provides several charts that indicate the make of the drones being used, their type, and the function of each drone employed by both parties to the conflict. The charts highlight various parameters such as maximum speed, endurance, and altitude capabilities. The empirical part of the article then feeds into the second part of the article which delves into the question of whether the drones being used there meet the requirements of the principles of distinction and proportionality as mandated in international humanitarian law. It argues that there seems to be evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and investigations need to be carried out to determine whether there should be accountability. The article argues that the artificial intelligence being used in drones make them distinct from ordinary weapons as it is their autonomy to make decisions which ensures that accountability for IHL violations is problematic. The article argues that IHL ought to be reformed to deal with these new warfare capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-169
Number of pages41
JournalInternational and Comparative Law Review
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Drones
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • Principle of Distinction
  • Principle of Proportionality
  • Russia-Ukraine War

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Drones on the Frontline: Charting the Use of Drones in the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict and How Their Use May Be Violating International Humanitarian Law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this