Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, are increasingly relied upon as a key component of US foreign policy, national security and military strategy. While the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency use drone fleets to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions, they also use drones as lethal weapons to execute targeted armed strikes as part of conventional warfare and counterterrorism strategy. Drones are also increasingly used by other US government agencies, foreign governments and multilateral institutions, and by the commercial sector for a variety of non-lethal purposes.

Download the Recommendations and Report of the Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy

View the release of the report below or here.

Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy - Press Release

Events -  Publications



Stimson hosts a series of public events on issues related to drones, providing a forum for balanced discussion and debate on the complex issues related to this controversial topic.

Past Events

Drone Warfare: Towards International Standards and Norms, Friday, April 24, 2015

In light of the continued debate surrounding military use of unmanned aerial systems - or what are more commonly referred to as drones - the Stimson Center, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, convened an expert panel to discuss the challenges posed by drone proliferation, and the potential for developing common international standards to govern their use. The panel highlighted key ethical, legal and proliferation concerns that have been raised by government officials, industry and civil society in the United States and around the world, and discussed possible approaches to establishing a political or legal framework to guide the transfer and use of drones.

High-level National Security Task Force Released Recommendations on US Drone Policy, Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Stimson Center's Task Force on US Drone Policy released a comprehensive and pragmatic set of recommendations to the Obama Administration on the future of US drone policy. Co-chaired by General John P. Abizaid (US Army, Ret.), former Commander of US Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, former Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the task force's findings represent the most high-level recommendations on US drone policy to date.

Emerging Uses of UAV Technology, Tuesday, November 19, 2013

While the military use of UAVs has been well covered, UAVs are increasingly being used in non-military interventions, including to stop illicit poaching, to help fight wildfires, and for civilian protection. As UAV technology develops, the use of UAVs will likely increase - allowing for better intelligence in areas not easily accessed or that may be unsafe for manned aircraft. The panel discussion took an over-the-horizon look at the non-military use of UAVs and discussed not only the future of this technology, but potential issues and obstacles related to its current use.

The US Air Force and Drone Policy, Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Over the past decade, the use of drones has taken center stage as part of US military strategy. Stimson's conversation with Lt. Gen. Larry D. James highlighted the US Air Force's remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) program and discussed RPA use in combat and non-combat operations. General James also underscored the effect on future Air Force strategy and support of US national security objectives. General James reflected upon the current state of play in Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), the integration of remotely piloted aircraft, and provided insight into where he sees the ISR enterprise heading in the near future.

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Ethics and Law Working Group Report (Stimson, September 2015)

Export Controls and Regulatory Challenges Working Group Report (Stimson, September 2015)

Military Utility, National Security, and Economics Working Group Report (Stimson, September 2015)

A Transatlantic Conversation on U.S. Drone Policy - Conference Report (Stimson, April 23, 2015)

Recommendations and Report of the Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy (Stimson, June 26, 2014)


Just How Effective is the U.S. Drone Program Anyway? (Lawfare, May 23, 2015)

Exercising Restraint? The New U.S. Rules for Drone Transfers (Arms Control Today, May 2015)

All the President's Drones: Obama's Targeted Killing Program (The National Interest, April 20, 2015)

What Obama's Drone Export Policy Really Means (Breaking Defense, February 27, 2015)

Are Drones Constrained? (Tribune News Service, January 26, 2015)

We Need to Reform Our Drone Policies (But This Isn't About Privacy) (Wired, August 13, 2014)

America Should Set Standards for Drone Use (Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2014)

The Great Drone Debate: Time to Move Past Fear and Confusion (The National Interest, July 7, 2014)

Report of the Stimson Center Task Force on Drone Policy (Lawfare, June 26, 2014)

Drones: Three Misconceptions, Concerns, and Ways to Make Things Better - A Report from the Stimson Center Task Force (Defense in Depth, June 26, 2014)

Mr. President, We Need Rules for Drones (Politico, June 26, 2014)

US Should Take Lead on Setting Global Norms for Drone Strikes (Washington Post, June 26, 2014)

The Other Side of Drones: Saving Wildlife in Africa and Managing Global Crime (Conflict Trends, October 2013)

Killing Lions, Buying Bombs (The New York Times, August 12, 2013)

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Photo credits: DeffiSK via wikimedia commons; Hashekemist via wikimedia commons; Gunnison4 via wikimedia commons