Until this week, British drones were operated only from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada.
The Ministry of Defense announced Thursday that a new drone-operating squadron had begun operating from RAF Waddington in eastern England.
The ministry said the Reaper drones are used for "intelligence and surveillance missions," but also are equipped with missiles and bombs.
About 400 peace activists marched to the perimeter fence of the base, saying drones make it too easy to launch deadly attacks from a distance and out of public sight.
"Because of their remote nature, there is no risk to any of our forces and that makes it easier to launch weapons and makes it much easier for politicians to get involved in warfare," said Chris Cole of the Drone Campaign Network.
The defense ministry said drone operators "adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement" as other RAF pilots.
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