REF 2021 Impact Case Study: Killing by Drone: Implementing professional ethics training in the induction and practice of the UK’s Royal Air Force Reaper drone operators


Description of impact

RAF Reaper drones have been widely deployed in combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2007. Their use has prompted media debate, public controversy, protests outside the bases involved, Parliamentary Questions, and an Inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones (APPGDrones) on ‘The UK’s Use of Armed Drones’.
Peter Lee was uniquely placed to provide independent advice to the Inquiry based on his detailed research with Reaper crews, and spoke strongly of the increased psychological and emotional jeopardy faced by crews undertaking remotely piloted air operations. He advocated, to both the Inquiry and the RAF, the urgency of introducing military ethics training to provide a moral framework and vocabulary to support the decision-making and mental wellbeing of Reaper crews as they made these life-or-death choices. The RAF acted on his advice and not only introduced bespoke professional ethics training into the initial induction and ongoing development of new and existing crew members of their Reaper squadrons – but asked Lee to develop and deliver this training to all Reaper personnel (around 400 staff - exact number not available for security reasons) in 2018 (Impact 1).
His expert knowledge of military drones and his ‘unique insights into the human dimension’ of drone operation has seen his appointment as an Expert Advisor to APPGDrones, a position from which he advises on the wider societal use of drones (Impact 2).
Impact statusClosed
Impact date20162020


  • REF2021