Remote Control: Remotely Piloted Air Systems: current, future UK use

11 July 2013

The Defence Committee today announces a new inquiry into current and future use of Remotely Piloted Air Systems by the UK military and intelligence communities.

This inquiry is the second of a series which have evolved from our inquiry Towards the next Defence and Security Review. These will cover a number of significant strands which the Committee believe would benefit from further Defence Committee consideration.

Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) are also often referred to colloquially as Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) or "drones".

The UK’s RPAS capabilities are established and, potentially, expanding. Several systems, including the armed Reaper aircraft, have been used by UK forces in Afghanistan. Domestically, in recent months, test flights to prove the technology for civilian unmanned aircraft have been carried out by the ASTRAEA consortium. The aim of the programme is to enable the routine use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in all classes of airspace without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation.

In this context, the Committee wishes to examine:

  • Nomenclature – defining the terms RPAS, UAS and "drone";
  • Current utility and dispersal – for what purposes are RPAS used currently?;
  • Lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan;
  • Tomorrow's potential - what additional capabilities will the UK seek to develop from now to 2020?;
  • Constraints on the use of RPAS in the UK and overseas; and
  • Ethical and legal issues arising from the use of RPAS.

The Committee will make recommendations to inform the future development and use of RPAS by the UK in the context of the next Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The Committee would welcome written evidence to this inquiry. This should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday 13 September 2013.

Submission of written evidence should:

  • If possible, be provided electronically in MS Word or Rich Text format by e-mail to If submitted by e-mail or e-mail attachment, a letter should also be sent validating the e-mail. The letterhead should contain your full postal address and contact details. If you have any queries on the submission of evidence contact Dougie Wands, Second Clerk, tel: 0207 219 4453, email:
  • Begin with a one page summary if it is longer than six pages
  • Have numbered paragraphs
  • Avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material.

Submissions can also be sent by post to Defence Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Individuals and organisations interested in submitting written evidence to the Committee may find the Commons: Guide for Witnesses particularly useful.

Please also note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within written evidence, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included. If a number of published documents are sent to accompany written evidence, these should be listed in the covering email.
  • Written evidence submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organization submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

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