From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Is it a bird? No! It's a US army drone that will probably "accidentally" kill your friends and family!
It never changes
Icon war2.svg
A view to kill

A drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV, is a remotely controlled flying device that can have any number of uses, from targeting enemy combatants and aerial reconnaissance, to journalistic photography and personal entertainment as a remotely controlled toy.

Military deployment[edit]

The history of unmanned military aviation stretches back all the way to 1849, when the Austrians sent bomb-laden balloons toward Venice.[1] The effort backfired somewhat due to the unreliability of balloons but did score some hits. The use of UAVs as reconnaissance aircraft for the US military only dates to 1964.[2] The semi-common use of drones for targeting the enemy began, as far as we know, under the second Bush administration. This usage continued under the Obama administration. Marc Thiessen, President Bush's chief speech-writer, pointed out a disadvantage of using drones for assassination: "When you send a drone to kill a terrorist, you not only vaporize the terrorist, you vaporize all the intelligence in his brain and so you might as well be setting file cabinets in the CIA on fire."[3]

The most famous kind of drone used for targeting is the RQ-1/MQ-1 Predator,Wikipedia which can attack targets on the ground by shooting Hellfire missiles at them. The MQ-9 Reaper,Wikipedia formerly known as the Predator B, is another armed UAV in US military service and is a much more capable aircraft than the Predator. It also has the distinction of being the aircraft of the first fighter squadron to convert to making exclusive use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

Recently the American public, and — to some extent — even the media, has finally become concerned about the morality of drone use in military operations. This may have something to do with the greater visibility of the CIA's and with military use of drones to commit human-rights abuses, like those that occur with the "double-tap" protocol, when a drone strikes an area where terrorists are believed to be located, and then re-strikes that same area, after civilians have rushed to the scene to help other civilians, thereby killing and injuring more civilians.

Criticisms have also been raised that drone strikes are extremely inaccurate. One five month period alone saw an inaccuracy rate of ninety-fucking-percent.[4]

Americans have raised another concern: the use of drones to commit extrajudicial executions. In 2013, Amnesty International released a report raising the possibility that American drone strikes in Pakistan constituted a war crime.[5] But then again, eliminating the enemy in combat is perfectly acceptable; that's what war is all about.

The US military also makes use of a variety of unarmed UAVs for reconnaissance, such as Global Hawk,Wikipedia Raven,Wikipedia and Shadow.Wikipedia These have far less news-making potential than their armed counterparts, which is a good thing, given the negative effect the media can have on an ongoing military campaign.

U.S. drones, developed jointly with Israel, have been exported to a number of close allies, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Italy.

As noted below, drones have also been extensively used by both sides during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[6]

Non-state actors have also started increasingly using drones. A Russian airbase in Syria was attacked by DIY drones made out of plywood and plastic.[7] The cartels have also started using drones.[8] The Houthis have also started using remote explosive drone boats against the Saudi Navy.[9]

Other uses[edit]

Drone used to watch police during a protest in Montreal, 2012
  • Starting in 2012, American courts have declared the ownership of non-lethal surveillance drones by police departments to be legal.
  • Drones are in use to patrol the United States border with Mexico.
  • Amazon.com has toyed with the notion of using rotor-lifted drones to deliver packages to its customers.
  • Drones are planned for use as restaurant waiters in Singapore starting in 2015 to help alleviate a labour shortage.[10]
  • Drones have been heavily marketed to consumers. Sometimes being on sale for less than sixty dollars to several thousand depending on their control automation, battery power, and quality of the video.
  • On the Fourth of July, 2018, drones were used in some U.S. cities instead of fireworks for reasons of public safety and fires.[11]
  • If things go as planned, NASA will send a nuclear-powered drone, the "Dragonfly",Wikipedia to Saturn's largest moon Titan some years from now.
  • In remote parts of Rwanda and Ghana, medical delivery drones (such as those from Zipline) are used to deliver medicine. This helps bypass the problem of rough terrain while enabling rapid and life-saving delivery.
  • Drones have extensively been used by both Russian and Ukrainian forces during the special military operation invasion of the latter by the former that started in 2022.
  • Drones can be used to smuggle contraband such as drugs and phones into prisons; however, they can easily be deterred by barking dogs.[12]

The public strikes back[edit]

Occupy Wall Street protesters used a drone called the "Occucopter" to monitor police activity so that they could catch police misconduct on camera and coordinate getting around the police crackdowns.

In December 2018, one of Britain's busiest airports, Gatwick south of London, was shut down for several hours by a drone. There was speculation that it could be climate change protestors, although it might have been an attempt to blackmail the airport operators (except no blackmail notice seems to have been received) or simply larking around.[13]

Drone paranoia[edit]

There have also been incidents where people have complained about drones or even swarms of drones monitoring them, where investigators struggled to find any evidence of actual drones. This includes several apparent sightings of drone swarms in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas in December 2019 and January 2020: explanations included secret military drones or anti-drone tests (there are nuclear missile bases in the area and it has been suggested they may have been testing anti-drone defences), drug smugglers using drones, or mass hysteria, but no hard evidence was found and reported sightings dwindled after January 2020. This may place drones in a similar category to UFOs or black helicopters as something that people see even when they're not there.[14][15]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]