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The University of Southampton

About the project

Reaper drone taxis at Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan
Reaper drone taxis at Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan

Emergent Ethics of Drone Violence: Toward a Comprehensive Governance Framework (DRONETHICS)

The DRONETHICS project systematically addresses an urgent need to clarify the morality of ‘drone violence’, defined as violence involving a weapon system that is radically remote from its immediate user. Such remoteness is achieved through extreme physical distancing or the devolution of system functions from humans to AI technologies, so drone violence disrupts traditional expectations about war and a warrior’s exposure to risk. In turn, the disruptively innovative premise of this project is that such violence does not necessarily fall within the remit of the Just War framework according to which war is traditionally judged and governed.

Moving beyond Just War thinking, the project opens up an ethical inquiry into drone violence conceptualised as either war, violent law-enforcement (protective or punitive), 'tele-intimate' violence, or devolved (to AI) violence. Through innovative exploration and application of alternative frameworks for governing violence, our interdisciplinary research team aims to produce: the first integrated conceptual framework for explaining ethical concerns arising from current and potential forms of drone violence; recommendations for policy-makers on how to manage this violence ethically; and a new normative vision for shaping the longer-term trajectory of drone violence for the sake of humanity.

DRONETHICS is hosted by the University of Southampton, in the Department of Politics and International Relations (PAIR).

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Consolidator Grant Project ID: 771082).

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