Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

EU steps up funding for drone research

  • Surveillance drones pose questions for people's privacy, Statewatch says (Photo: Chris Hunkeler)

EU defence firms have received hundreds of millions in EU research grants for work on drones, despite rules against funding of military projects.

A report out by the London-based civil liberties watchdog, Statewatch, on Wednesday (12 February), says at least €315 million of EU research money was lavished on the sector in recent years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Of this, almost €120 million has gone towards major security research projects,” it notes.

Rules prohibit the EU’s “Horizon” science scheme from funding military projects.

But the concept of “dual-use technology,” in which equipment can be used for both civilian and military objectives, gives the EU institutions enough leeway to go ahead.

The European Commission says the research is regulated for civilian use.

“It’s true that research can potentially be used for military and civilian use but what is important is that we regulate differently military airspace and civilian airspace,” EU spokesperson Helen Kearns told this website.

She noted the EU’s task is to regulate remotely piloted aircraft in civilian airspace.

“The target of our research is very clearly at their safety use in civilian airspace,” she said.

Unmanned aircraft can be used, for instance, to monitor crops or environmental hazards.

But Statewatch says there is a growing trend to use them for “militarised and repressive” purposes, including law enfrocement and border control, with serious implications for privacy and human rights.

Its survey describes the EU subsidies as a “blank cheque” for Europe’s military corporations.

“It’s easy to see why people are so excited about drones: There are many positive things they could be used for,” Ben Hayes, one of the co-authors of the report, said.

He added there is “a clear direction of travel” in terms of developing drones for high-tech warfare and security surveillance, however.

Some of the EU-funded projects - such as Talos (transportable autonomous patrol for land border surveillance), Perseus (the protection of European seas and borders through the intelligent use of surveillance), and Seabilla (Sea Border Surveillance) - are currently being worked on by EU defence firms Dassault Aviation and Thales.

The Talos project, which received almost €13 million of EU money, also involves Israel Aerospace Industries, a leading maker of lethal drones.

Statewatch notes that EU funding for the sector is set to increase.

It points out that the overall EU budget for security research has tripled from €1.4 billion, under the previous budget period, to €3.8 billion in 2014 to 2020.

Meanwhile, the Brussels-based European Defence Agency (EDA), has, in a parallel programme, paid out some €190 million for military and civilian drone research between 2005 and 2011.

Major arms manufacturers such as Thales, Selex, EADS, and Sagem are among the main recipients. Just over half the money has gone towards research unmanned aerial vehicles.

Last November, defence ministers from seven EU member states also tasked the EDA with drafting a study on joint production of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (Male) vehicles.

The club of seven countries, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, aim to produce the military drones from 2020 onward.

At the same time, EU institutions are pushing to remove the regulatory and technical barriers that currently limit the flight of drones in civilian airspace.

The European Commission published a roadmap in June 2013 to have them flying in civilian air by 2028.

Statewatch says that €70 million budget line aimed at ensuring widespread civilian drone flight was inserted into new EU legislation as “a politically driven priority” despite the fact that there has been no democratic debate on the issue.

Faced with stiff competition from US and Israeli manufacturers, the EU hopes that investment in drones will help create jobs and profits in Europe’s military-industrial complex.

The EU Commission is set to come out with a communication in March on drones and the regulatory hurdles to getting them into civilian airspace.

EU promises new dawn for drone makers

The EU Commission has promised to help European drone makers conquer world markets, as part of wider efforts to export EU aviation rules.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Italy would be committing economic "suicide" if it fell in line with EU rules, its deputy leader has said, in a sign that Rome has little intention of bowing to pressure ahead of Tuesday's budget deadline.

News in Brief

  1. Draft Brexit deal on London cabinet agenda on Wednesday
  2. EU proposes no visa for UK citizens after Brexit
  3. EU parliament 'deeply concerned' on Romania judiciary
  4. Macedonia's ex-PM flees to Hungary, seeks asylum
  5. Cyprus opens first new border crossings in eight years
  6. Putin's Austrian dance partner cancels Moscow visit
  7. Political deadlock over Sweden Democrat influence
  8. Court: Catalan referendum organisers must repay costs

Opinion

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

Opinion

All Quiet on the Eastern Front?

Russia is trying to foment a clash between Hungary and Ukraine over the territory of Zakarpattia in a potential crisis overlooked by EU leaders.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  2. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  3. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  4. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey
  5. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  6. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  7. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  8. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us