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Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne, Executive Director of LKI, was invited to moderate a session at the Colombo Air Symposium on 13 October 2017, organised by the Sri Lanka Air Force. The annual Colombo Air Symposium convenes global expertise on airpower to understand new developments on the subject, and to increase cooperation and goodwill among the participating nations. The two-day event, on the theme of “Airpower in addressing Asymmetric Threats”, featured eminent local and international speakers.
Dr. Panditaratne chaired the session titled “Drones: Friend or Foe.” Session speakers included Air Commodore Dilshan Wasage and Niruthan Nilanthan, Research Fellow at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies. They examined asymmetric air threats and countermeasures; the role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in asymmetric urban conflicts; the use of UAVs with a centralised command to counter asymmetric air threats; the spectrum of ways in which state and non-state actors will leverage the unconventional nature of an urban battlefield; and the legal and tactical issues that states will have to consider to retain their advantage in the air.
Dr. Panditaratne noted that the state’s traditional monopoly on airpower is being challenged by the rise of small drones available to various non-state groups and individuals, including for commercial use by companies such as Amazon. She raised the need for militaries to consult and coordinate with legitimate non-state actors in developing the normative standards surrounding UAVs.
The seminar was attended by military leaders and technical experts, as well as think tank representatives, defence advisors and diplomats.