By Dr. Eve Massingham

Aerial systems with autonomous functionality are not new. However, their prevalence, sizes, manoeuvrability and the altitudes at which they fly today have not been fully contemplated by the international legal frameworks for aircraft developed in the 20th century. States are increasingly deploying these craft to undertake a range of tasks, and while these activities were once somewhat separated from the civilian airspace, this is no longer always the case. While most international civil aviation rules do not apply to military aircraft, military aircraft are not entirely exempt from compliance with key rules necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation. This paper looks at how autonomous military aircraft are impacted by laws to protect international civil aviation, and indeed, civilians, and in particular identifies some of the communication requirements for the safe and lawful use of autonomous military aircraft alongside civil aviation, both in peace time and in times of armed conflict.

Keywords: International Law; Communication, Aircraft; State Aircraft; Military Aircraft; Autonomous Aircraft; Safety; Navigation; Belligerent Rights; International Humanitarian Law.

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