Separating Fact from Fiction in the Debate over Drone Proliferation Academic Article uri icon


  • What are the consequences of drone proliferation for international security? Despite extensive discussions in the policy world concerning drone strikes for counterterrorism purposes, myths about the capabilities and implications of current-generation drones often outstrip reality. Understanding the impact of drones requires separating fact from fiction by examining their effects in six different contextscounterterrorism, interstate conflict, crisis onset and deterrence, coercive diplomacy, domestic control and repression, and use by nonstate actors for the purposes of terrorism. Although current-generation drones introduce some unique capabilities into conflicts, they are unlikely to produce the dire consequences that some analysts fear. In particular, drone proliferation carries potentially significant consequences for counterterrorism operations and domestic control in authoritarian regimes. Drones could also enhance monitoring in disputed territories, potentially leading to greater stability. Given their technical limitations, however, current-generation drones are unlikely to have a large impact on interstate warfare. Assessing the consequences of drone proliferation has important implications for a range of policy issues, including the management of regional disputes, the regulation of drone exports, and defense against potential terrorist attacks on the homeland.

published proceedings

  • International Security

altmetric score

  • 109.23

author list (cited authors)

  • Horowitz, M. C., Kreps, S. E., & Fuhrmann, M.

citation count

  • 59

complete list of authors

  • Horowitz, Michael C||Kreps, Sarah E||Fuhrmann, Matthew

publication date

  • October 2016