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8805264_m featureMore and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations’ intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data.

Dutch troops are using drones to gather intelligence on the armed Islamist insurgents operating in the deserts of Mali. Swedish troops are expected to take some drones along when they are sent to Timbuktu, Mali, this year.

The United Nations has received a nod from the government of Mali to use drones more broadly in its peacekeeping mission there. Likewise from the government of the Central African Republic. The United Nations has been rebuffed in its efforts to put them to use in South Sudan, where the government, facing a civil war, has flatly denied permission.

Unmanned Systems Event 2014 – Israel

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Never before have foreign troops been able to collect so much fine-grained information about people and places of interest: who sells guns to whom, where illegal gold mines operate, the precise location of a rebel base. All of it, United Nations officials say, is classified and available only at the discretion of its lawyers.

It remains to be tested whether and how the information will be shared with, for instance, a host government, or a sanctions committee impaneled by the United Nations Security Council, or even a war crimes tribunal.