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Drones along Borders: Border Security UAVs in the United States and the European Union

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JournalInternational Studies Perspectives
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Jul 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 25 May 2018
Early online date25/05/18
Original languageEnglish


Abstract: Border control authorities, vigilantes, and criminal organizations use drones to track movement across the US-Mexican border. EU member states’ military drones patrol the Mediterranean Sea for migrants alongside drones operated by humanitarian organizations. This paper examines the complex security landscape that is unfolding as states deploy military drones for border security and non-state actors with sharply diverging motives develop their own drone surveillance capacities. We argue that border security drones have contrary political, policy, and ethical implications. First, the encroachment of military technologies into non-military security operations may have adverse security repercussions, but drones may also save migrants’ lives as they make dangerous journeys through deserts and across rough seas. Second, drone surveillance erodes privacy but also creates new accountability mechanisms. Finally, drones may obviate some visible signs of security, such as fences, while also introducing an invisible security apparatus that extends beyond state boundaries. These contradictory effects help to explain the complex policy formation processes underlying drone border security programs in the United States and Europe as well as the challenge of reaching clear answers about whether drone security is desirable.

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© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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