The term military drone refers to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). Drones have been used for a number of purposes, ranging from civilian and humanitarian uses, such as assisting search and rescue missions, to military uses in conflict zones, such as reconnaissance and surveillance purposes, or they have alternatively armed with missiles and bombs. International humanitarian law (IHL) does not expressly prohibit drones, and drones are also not considered to be inherently indiscriminate. Thus, in this aspect, they are the same as weapons launched from piloted aircraft. Although drones are not unlawful weaponry in themselves, their use is subject to international law.
Under IHL in armed conflict lethal force may be used against combatants or fighters, and against civilians taking a direct part in hostilities, so long as states follow the four key principles of the Laws of Armed Conflict: distinction, proportionality, unnecessary suffering, and military necessity. The growth of drone usage has resulted in a legal grey area specifically in the aspects of distinction and proportionality. Distinction refers to discrimination between lawful combatant targets and noncombatant targets, such as civilians. However, IHL also states that a combatant may target and kill civilians that have a direct role in armed conflict zones. Outside of armed conflict zones, the rules provide little legal support for drone attacks thus giving rise to targeted extrajudicial killing enabled by the use of drones possibly resulting in violations of IHL including the right to life and the right to due process. Proportionality refers to the prohibition of any type of force that exceeds that needed to accomplish the military objective.
The level of proportionality of a drone strike cannot be determined if states are not completely transparent about the level of impact on civilian populations, thus it is impossible for independent observers and the international community to judge whether killings were lawful or not, reiterating the requirement for an establishment of a legal framework specifically for the regulation of military drones.The Russian Federation has been compliant in regards to international law in the usage of drones in combat zones. The country has been highly restrained using drones as a strike capability, instead opting for using drones as a means of surveillance and reconnaissance to aid artillery strikes, such as the Orlan-10 UAV used in the Russia-Georgian border conflict in 2008, and in Donbass, Ukraine in 2014. This has allowed the Russian Federation to stay committed to International Humanitarian Law, specifically aiding the countries military in distinguishing civilians from combatants in urban combat zones, and allowing military commanders to assess the proportionality of their strategy.
It has thus lowering the civilian death toll and preventing unnecessary suffering.In the future, the Russian Federation pledges its full support for developing a legal framework to clearly define what constitutes civilians and combatants in areas outside of armed conflict zones. The Russian federation also urges states to take increased levels of accountability of drone strikes by becoming more transparent in the acknowledgment of strikes and subsequent civilian casualties.