The risk of militarization of drone technology in Africa represents a new asymmetric tool that violent nonstate groups may deploy to extend the reach of their coercion, reshaping the African battlefield.

A drone flying above Madagascar

A drone flying above Madagascar. (Photo: WFP/Adam Marlatt)

In late 2016, the Islamic State (ISIS) reached an important milestone during the battle to secure the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. In what is thought to be the first ever recorded use by violent nonstate actors in theatre, ISIS deployed a weaponized drone or Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The device, with a range of about a mile and a half, had been built and loaded with explosives and detonated in a densely populated urban battlefield. The impact was both physical and psychological. Civilians found themselves trapped deeper in the city while Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’ite militias joining Iraqi government troops, struggled to regain control.

Since that time, the use of UAS by violent…