14 September 2015 by Africa Defense Forum
With unmanned aircraft changing the dynamics of warfare, it should come as no surprise that the technology is changing peacekeeping as well.
Since the end of 2013, the United Nations has used unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs and drones, to fly over the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The 5-meter-long Selex ES Falco drones monitor remote regions that U.N. peacekeeping troops can’t reach. The drones, equipped with cameras, heat-signature equipment and night-vision technology, can conduct surveillance in the dark and detect movement below a thick tree canopy — a new frontier in intelligence-gathering. The drones patrol the eastern border at a low altitude, monitoring rebels and militia, and also track illegal mining in the region. The DRC mission known by the acronym MONUSCO is the first time the U.N. has used drones for peacekeeping. Although the sophisticated UAVs aren’t cheap, they are becoming more affordable. The initial cost of the two-drone mission was estimated at $15 million per year, or about 1 percent of the mission’s annual budget. The mission has since added three more drones, although one of them crashed in October 2014. “They provide a very good bang for the buck,” a U.N. official told FoxNews.com. “When you are thinly spread in the region, these UAVs provide an extra set of eyes for our peacekeepers in the DRC.” Drone use in the military is here to stay. As of early 2012, at least 10 African countries had established some type of drone program.