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Fear the drones: Remotely Piloted Systems and non-state actors in Syria and Iraq

On today’s battlefield, a whole set of new capabilities has appeared. This calls for a mandatory understanding of how much of a potential game-changer Remotely Piloted Systems, commonly known as drones, are or will be. The porous border between civil and military technologies is one key explanation and has contributed to drone proliferation. Their dual character, presenting a new regulatory challenge, allowed for drone technology to be easily accessible on the market notably for non-state actors seeking air-based capabilities. This paper aims to emphasize the emerging threat posed by the use of Remotely Piloted Systems by non-state actors operating in the Levant, essentially but not only in Syria and Iraq. Studying RPS and their military implications help to design future trends in drone warfare. What happens in Syria and Iraq might be helpful to think how France, and generally speaking NATO and EU member states, should deal with this imminent and continually evolving threat, whether on the tactical, operational, or strategic levels, by taking into consideration the rapid proliferation of drone technology and its use by potential adversaries.

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