International law concerning the status and marking of remotely piloted aircraft
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Denver journal of international law and policy, Vol. 39, issue 4, Fall 2011, p.615-628
In recent times, significant media and legal attention has been paid to the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) in areas such as Pakistan and Yemen. As well as RPA (the current term being preferred in some military circles), other common terms include "drone", "armed drone", unmanned (or uninhabited) aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned (or uninhabited) aircraft system (UAS); and when some form of armament is also involved, sometimes the word "combat" is after unmanned (or uninhabited), leading to the acronyms UCAS or UCAV. The legal issues discussed have generally concerned the use of force, the status of the operators of the aircraft (e.g., military or civilian intelligence agent), the status of the intended target, or the injury caused to someone and the damage caused to something other than the intended target. Comparatively little attention has been paid to legal issues concerning the aircraft themselves; however, the rise in the use and variety of RPA highlights some interesting legal issues concerning the aircraft themselves. This article looks at the international law concerning the "status" of RPA and the legal requirement, if any, for applying "markings" to RPA.