European defence future in dual-use technologies investment

By Edoardo Camilli
posted on March 24, 2014 in Leadership, Security/Intelligence

Edoardo Camilli, Director of the “International Security Observer”, argues the future of European defence should be based on investment in dual-use technologies

The conomic and financial crisis has had a deep impact on the European defence industry. The concepts of “Pooling & Sharing” and “Smart Defence” have become the core strategies adopted by the European Union and NATO to cope with increasing budgets cuts in the security and defence sectors. However, if European defence industries want to remain competitive in the long term “Pooling & Sharing” resources might not be enough - they need to think outside of their sector, and consider the impact of so-called “dual-use” technologies[1].

European defence industries have to go beyond the intra-sectorial pooling of resources and start pooling inter-sectorial needs and wants. This means understanding the necessities of those non-defence related sectors that benefit as well from due-use technologies. In the near future, a very heterogenic group of public and private users will need dual-use technologies like cyber-defence capabilities and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Cyber-security is an already widely discussed issue, whose implications for the daily lives of public institutions, companies and even individuals are self-evident. Different is the case of UAVs, whose fame has too often been associated only to the weaponised drones used in anti-terrorism campaigns. Drones are dual-use technologies that can represent a “game changer” for many public agencies, private companies and even for NGOs. For instance, the Seattle Police Department has planned on using the Dragonflyer drone equipped with thermal imaging technology to help policemen during hostage situations, search and rescue operations, bomb threats and for pursuing armed criminals[2].

Other organizations have been using drones for monitoring energy infrastructures[3], for delivering vaccines to people in rural communities[4], for preserving wildlife and the environment[5], for studying hurricanes[6] and, even, for delivering pizzas[7] and Amazon packages[8]

Developing dual-use technologies with other sectors that are not necessarily related to the defence industry could help the latter share the costs of both R&D and production, as well as expanding the market of final users. The positive effect of some dual-use technologies, like drones, could be used by Europe as tools of peace, research and development.    

[1] According to the definition given by the European Commission, dual-use technologies are: “goods, software and technology normally used for civilian purposes but which may have military applications, or may contribute to the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).”  See: European Commission, Trade, Import and export rules, Export from EU, Dual use controls,  

[2] Jamie Lynn, Seattle residents remain skeptical about police drones, Komo News, February 6, 2013,

[3] Aeronautics, Pipeline Monitoring & Oil and Gas Security,

[4] Bill Gates Foundation (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has granted funds to a group of researcher at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, who is developing UAVs systems to deliver vaccines in hard-to-reach locations. See: Brid-Aine Parnell, Five Nonlethal Uses For Drones Aside From Amazon Deliveries, Forbes, February 12, 2013,

[5] See:,, and

[6] See NASA’ “Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3)” project,

[7] Julianne Pepitone, Domino's tests drone pizza delivery, CNN Money, June 4, 2013,   

[8] Amazon Prime Air,