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Remote Control project: Student essay competition winners

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20 October 2015

The Remote Control Project launched its first student essay competition over the summer on the subject of security by remote control. Students were asked to submit an essay on one of the four key elements that make up remote control warfare to answer the question ‘Is remote control effective in solving security problems?’ Following a fantastic response from university students across the UK, the winner and two runners up were selected by a panel of remote warfare experts, consisting of Dr Jon Moran(University of Leicester), Dr Sam Raphael (University of Westminster) and James Rogers (University of York). Submissions were judged on their originality, argument and analysis, as well as how well the student answered the question. Congratulations to the winner, Thomas Bolland who will receive £300, and the two runners- up, Chad Daniel Tumelty and Archie Jobson, who will have their essays featured as ‘long-reads’ on the King’s College War Studies blog, Strife.


Thomas Bolland

Thomas recently graduated with a Masters (Distinction) from the University of Manchester in Politics. After being awarded a full PhD scholarship at Liverpool John Moores University he is currently in the formative stages of his research project looking at conflict, humanitarianism and applications of non-weaponised UAVs within these branching topics. His research interests include international security studies, human rights, conceptions of terrorism, and (more generally) international politics.

Is remote control effective in solving security problems? An essay exploring the (in)security of armed drones [UAVs] in Pakistan and Yemen.


Throughout the ‘Global War on Terror’, various branches of the US Government have increasingly used Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, known as ‘drones’, to carry out ‘targeted killings’ and ‘surgical strikes’ in order to eliminate individuals associated with extremism and terror activities. This essay critically examines whether armed drone technology in Pakistan and Yemen is successful in realising US desires for security, what ‘security’ means to those on the receiving end of it, and by what provisos and exceptions securitisation (in this case by the US) is being attempted. The essay concludes by noting that the US drone programme in Pakistan and Yemen is a problematic contemporary method of securitisation and makes the recommendation that the US rethink its drone (and specifically within that, its ‘signature strike’) programme lest it inadvertently creates –and by its continuation, endorses– a climate of severe insecurity.

Read the essay


Chad Daniel Tumelty

Chad is currently studying for an MA in Science and Security at King’s College London. He is writing his dissertation on the bulk collection of metadata by the U.S. National Security Agency. Previously Chad completed a BA in War Studies, also at King’s College London, for which he was awarded a first class honours. He is currently interning at Realeyes, a tech start-up, which provides facial coding and emotions analytical services to brands, advertising agencies and media companies.

Is remote control effective in solving security problems?


Drones manifest both the concept and operation of remote control. As more states acquire and use drones to perform tasks previously performed by manned aircraft the effect that this transition of control will have upon wider state security will become clear. However as yet it is not. As such it is important to not only think about how effective drones may be in solving security problems but also the wider impact this may have. The argument presented here is that the effectiveness of drones in solving state security problems will not be determined by the technology that allows them to be controlled remotely but in how states utilise that technology without impacting upon the security of other states. While drones can increase a state’s security by performing sorties that manned aircraft cannot, offering unparalleled persistence over borders and maritime interests, in areas where relations between states are strained such employment may be misperceived and create a security dilemma. Although drones enable states to conduct dangerous reconnaissance flights remotely without any risk to a pilot, epitomizing the concept of post-heroic warfare, this risks states becoming more inclined to conduct more politically precarious operations, potentially eroding security.

Read the essay

Archie Jobson

Archie is currently a third year undergraduate in the War Studies Department at King’s College London. His dissertation focused on human rights and the war on terror. He is interested in the changing nature of warfare and how it is revealing our rigid definitions of conflict as inadequate and outdated. Archie is hoping to continue his studies within the War Studies Department with an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society.


Is democratic peace theory undermined on the cyber battlefield?


I have sought to answer this question from the perspective of international relations theory, more specifically democratic peace theory. In this essay I forward the case that the developments of cyber warfare negate the factors that promote the notion of democratic peace. These being the transparency of democracies, public aversion to the casualties and costs of war, as well as the war retardant of free trade. This is significant for two reasons. Firstly, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US, and its allies, have orientated their foreign policy around the promotion of democratic norms and governments. This could now mean a drastic change in approach, due to the contentions provided by cyberwar. Secondly, it is hard to demonstrate a concrete example of two democracies engaging each other in warfare. If the reasons explaining this – as presented by democratic peace theorists – are correct, then we could be entering an age of increasing instability as democracies readily engage each other on the cyber battlefield. My articulated question is, “Is democratic peace theory undermined on the cyber battlefield?” Therefore in answer to the initial question (“Is remote control effective in solving security problems?”), no, in fact it can be more detrimental to security and the problems associated with it.

Read the essay

The Remote Control project is a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by Oxford Research Group. The project examines changes in military engagement, in particular the use of drones, special forces, private military companies and cyber warfare.

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