Event Concept

The Unmanned Systems Forum will take place on 16-17 February 2021, in a hybrid format, allowing a carefully curated list of participants made of officials, experts, academia and business representatives to participate both in-person and digitally.

With the world still facing the Covid-19 challenge and the recovery which has already begun, New Strategy Center, as the main organizer of the Forum, alongside the institutional partnership of the Ministry of Defence of Romania and the Ministry of Economy of Romania acknowledge the need to bring stakeholders together to address the old and new security challenges we are currently dealing with.

We chose the motto ”Smart Approach, Fast Development” for this forum because we believe that in order to deal with the numerous classical and emergent threats, Romania has to adopt a smart approach, including from a technological perspective. This way, the technological gap can compensate the brute force it faces in the Black Sea as a result of the extensive process of militarization conducted by the Russian Federation. Even if part of NATO, Romania and Bulgaria continue to depend on a defense based largely on outdated Soviet-style equipment, and the technological gap can only be offset by investments in new capabilities that will have a long range of usage in the next 3 or 4 decades, and unmanned systems should be top-priority. In addition, the entire field of the unmanned systems is experiencing extremely fast development, both in the civilian and in the military fields. Legislation must be adapted to this rapid development so that people can live safely with these systems, considering that drones are already part of our daily lives. Research, development and the economic cooperation cannot ignore the issue of unmanned systems, given that many countries are concerned with developing solutions that correspond to either commercial interests or some military needs. The development of such a wide range of unmanned systems also determines the emergence of systems to counteract them, especially given that they can be used not only by state actors, but also by terrorist organizations or organized crime.

In this context, New Strategy Center introduces a two-day agenda for debates, with emphasis on topics such as the broader assessment on the security challenges in the area, the potential of using unmanned systems in the Black Sea region to build our future defence and deterrence and the applicability of other unmanned systems in border control and crisis management. We call on previous experiences and enable our audience to engage with speakers that can share lessons learned from Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operations. Another topic proposed for debate is the legal framework through a debate on the key legal issues the RPAS industry is facing. In a separate panel, we look for opportunities as we put forward the cooperation potential of the Romanian industry, starting to focus on unmanned systems. Finally, we are debating drone detection, countermeasures and mitigation and finding ISR solutions for a safer Black Sea region.

The discussion on the security challenges in the Black Sea region are important because it influences significantly the process of acquiring new equipment and technology. Following the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, an extensive militarization process of the Black Sea region has been underway and given the plethora of frozen conflicts located in the region, the area became a testing ground for aggressive hybrid actions. We most recently witnessed the escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, during which UAVs were massively used.

The countries in the region are looking to boost their investments in unmanned system capabilities and Romania is planning to launch an ambitious acquisition program to boost its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. Such systems are even more important as the preparations are underway for the natural resources in the offshore area of the Black Sea to be exploited, requiring investments in unmanned capabilities that would provide the necessary protection. Furthermore, we note the objective of Romania to substantially fund the research & development for such systems, as other countries in the region did. The newest National Defence Strategy of Romania reiterated in 2020 the commitment to allocate 2% of the GDP for defence spending as an annual target, out of which 20% go to acquisition of new equipment and 2% to research, development and innovation. Apart from the Ministry of Defence, the Romanian Ministry of Interior shows similar intention in order to enhance border control and crisis management.

The Unmanned Systems Forum will be the most important specialized event in Romania and we are very glad that you will be a part of it. The speakers bring expertise from national and international institutions, from other NATO and EU countries, from global leading think-tanks, from the US Air Force, US Army Europe and Africa and recognized companies in the field. Former high-ranking military officials will be connected to our conference and will share their experience with the participants throughout the two days of the event.

We mention that the event will be organized under Chatham House rules, during which participation is allowed only by invitation, in a hybrid format, with online and limited in-person participation in full compliance with the protection measures against Covid-19 applicable in Romania.