Experts are still predicting that drones will change the character of warfare, but the reality is that warfare has already changed. The era of armed drone use has arrived, and the rapid proliferation of drone technology among states and militant groups alike poses a new threat to the international community.
Who has drones and how are they getting them? This site seeks to answer those questions, tracking which countries currently possess armed drones and how they acquired them, based on an analysis of hundreds of news reports and government documents.
So far, nine countries have used armed drones in combat: the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. But many other countries are arming drones.
In New America’s World of Drones database, countries are sorted into three groups: those that use drones in combat, those that possess armed drones but have not used them in combat, and those that are developing armed drones. A country’s drone capabilities are classified according to the U.S. Air Force tier system. Tier I includes low altitude, low endurance drones like the Orbiter; Tier II is comprised of medium altitude, long endurance drones like the Reaper or the Predator; and Tier II+ applies to high altitude, long endurance drones like the Global Hawk. Mini and micro drones are not classified in the tier system.