The Law of Unmanned Naval Systems in War and Peace

Journal of Ocean Technology, 2010

28 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2013

See all articles by James Kraska

James Kraska

Stockton Center for International Law, U.S. Naval War College; Harvard University - Harvard Law School; University of California Berkeley School of Law; Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

Date Written: October 14, 2010


Unmanned systems are becoming ubiquitous in the oceans, and naval forces throughout the world are primary operators of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). International law governing activities on, over and under the sea emerged well before the development of unmanned systems. As UAVs, USVs and UUVs become more advanced – already autonomous, expendable and “intelligent” robots are emerging, forming networked systems – legal and policy issues are becoming acute. This article suggests that as “aircraft” and “vessels,” unmanned naval systems fit within the existing legal architecture for peacetime maritime operations, including the 1944 Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These two treaties and their progeny provide guidance for the use of most of the global commons, and reflect a liberal legal architecture for unmanned air-sea vehicles and systems.

Keywords: unmanned, drone, UAS, UAV, underwater, autonomous, expendable, robot

Suggested Citation

Kraska, James, The Law of Unmanned Naval Systems in War and Peace (October 14, 2010). Journal of Ocean Technology, 2010, Available at SSRN:

James Kraska (Contact Author)

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