Conflicts like those in Libya and the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, in which high-tech armed drones help decide the fate of nations, are becoming increasingly common. Equally concerning is the increasing use of drones for targeted killings in purported self-defense, such as the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and others by the United States in Iraq in January. The proliferation and evolution of drone technology puts such killings within the reach of multiple state and non-state actors, who may kill anonymously and with impunity.
The Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR—a 1980s control mechanism intended to prevent the spread of unmanned systems that can deliver weapons of mass destruction—has not stopped the proliferation of armed drones, and the Trump administration’s decision to re-interpret the MTCR has only made things worse. Instead, nation states must work together to establish a new regime for the new drone age, and President-elect Biden should consider supporting such a move. Call it a Drone Technology Control Regime.