Earlier this month, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations asked the Security Council to permit the use of surveillance drones for U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In an email interview, Walter Dorn, an expert in the technology of U.N. peacekeeping at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College, discussed the U.N.’s drone plan.
WPR: What capabilities is the U.N. seeking to acquire with the proposal to deploy drones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Walter Dorn: The U.N. would like to better see and hear what’s going on within its vast area of operations in the Congo. Rather than being “deaf and blind” in the field, to use the words of Romeo Dallaire, the former force commander in Rwanda, the U.N. wants situational awareness. It needs to follow the movements of belligerent forces and internally displaced persons, catch smugglers of deadly arms and precious minerals and stop malicious human traffickers -- to name only a few examples. Sometimes it simply wants to know road conditions prior to launching operations -- for example, whether a bridge has washed out -- or to check on the safety of its patrols. For instance, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be useful for spotting an ambush in advance of a convoy. Drones can also be very useful during combat to know the positions and movements of attackers. Sometimes one also uses drones just to see where the friendly forces are.