Where is drone warfare headed?
The fast developing predator drone technology, officially called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, is becoming so dominant and so beyond any restraining framework of law or ethics, that its use by the U.S. government around the world may invite a horrific blowback.
The Pentagon has about 7,000 aerial drones. Ten years ago there were less than 50. According to the website longwarjournal.com, they have destroyed about 1900 insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal regions. How these fighters are so clearly distinguished from civilians in those mountain areas is not clear.
Nor is it clear how or from whom the government gets such “precise” information about the guerilla leaders’ whereabouts night and day. The drones are beyond any counterattack—flying often at 50,000 feet. But the Air Force has recognized that a third of the Predators have crashed by themselves.
Compared to mass transit, housing, energy technology, infection control, food and drug safety, the innovation in the world of drones is incredible. Coming soon are hummingbird sized drones, submersible drones and software driven autonomous UAVs. The Washington Post described these inventions as “aircraft [that] would hunt, identify and fire at [the] enemy—all on its own.” It is called “lethal autonomy” in the trade.
[Noah Shachtman writes in Wired that if the Army has its way, drones won’t just be able to look at what you do. They’ll be able to recognize your face — and track you, based on how you look. “If this works out, we’ll have the ability to track people persistently across wide areas,” says Tim Faltemier, the lead biometrics researcher at Progeny Systems Corporation, which recently won one of the Army contracts.]
Columnist David Ignatius wrote that “A world where drones are constantly buzzing overhead—waiting to zap those deemed threats under a cloaked and controversial process—risks being, even more, a world of lawlessness and chaos.”
Consider how terrifying it must be to the populations, especially the children, living under the threat of drones that can attack through clouds and dark skies.
Forty countries are reported to be working on drone technology or acquiring it. Some experts predict hostile states or terrorist organizations hacking into robotic systems to redirect them.
[Excerpts of an article by Ralph Nader]