Panel of UN experts recommends UAS for peacekeepers

By Patrick C. Miller | March 04, 2015

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) should be among the high-tech tools available to United Nations peacekeepers in the 21st century, according a panel of experts who studied the organization's needs.

The five-member group called the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation recently released a report containing recommendations for the UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field support. They believe the UN must keep pace with innovation to take advantage of UAS and other technologies essential to the organization’s field operations.

The report—entitled “Performance Peacekeeping”—said UAS “represent a part of the update equation that can bring decided advantages to a peacekeeping operation in the areas of safety, security, situational awareness, and command and control.” UAS are “an indispensable source of information” and “their use should also be immediately expanded,” the report stated.

The panel’s findings were based on several field visits and interviews with member states, partner organizations and other organizations with similar field operations.

“In a rapidly evolving and complex environment, UN peacekeeping must be ready to respond to a vast array of challenges,” said Jane Holl Lute, the peace and security expert who led the panel. “Being able to transition to a culture that values innovation is central to being able to execute more effectively on peacekeeping mandates.”

The panel cited an example in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where a UN unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) detected a ferry accident on a lake. The country’s vast distances and difficult terrain didn’t impact the ability of the peacekeeping mission to quickly dispatch speedboats and helicopters to the scene, resulting in the rescue of 15 people.

The report noted that UN peacekeepers have often been unable to prevent massacres and atrocities or catch smugglers, identify aggressors and spot human rights violations because they didn’t have “adequate tools to foresee or to act, even when the political will was present.” Many of these incidents occur at night or in remote locations of large geographical areas.

The report stated that the UN currently “lacks the necessary technological capacity for remote monitoring, including little or no infrastructure for unmanned overhead surveillance and unattended ground sensors.”

The report recommend: “As an immediate measure, the UN could make better use of lighter, night-time-capable platforms, such as UAVs, aerostats or other raised platforms with mounted electro-optical infrared or radar radial-surveillance technology.”

Because UAS represent “an indispensable source of information,” the report said the technology should be “part of the peacekeeper’s toolkit” and that its use should be expanded immediately. 


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