They can fly with payloads including still cameras, video cameras, infrared detectors, thermal detectors, and they can even be used to fertilize farms, spray pesticides and, more nefariously, for chemical warfare.
Currently, drone snooping can be conducted without a warrant and the FAA estimates 30,000 drones could be flying in U.S. skies by 2020. High-tech cameras can scan entire cities, or zoom in and read a milk carton from 60,000 feet. They can also carry Wi-Fi crackers and fake cell phone towers capable of determining your location or intercepting your texts and phone calls. Far too many Americans still fail to appreciate the problems they pose, sometimes in ways which the average commentator hasn’t even contemplated.
UAV’s are aircraft either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission and can remain aloft for as long as 82 hours. They pretty much fall into two categories: (1) those that are used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and (2) those that are armed with missiles and bombs.
The British and U.S. Reaper and Predator drones are physically based in Afghanistan and Iraq and are launched by ground crews in the conflict zone. Once launched, the operation is handed over to controllers at video screens in specially designed trailers at specific locations. One person ‘flies’ the drone, another operates and monitors the cameras and sensors, while a third person is in contact with the “customers,” ground troops and commanders in the war zone.
The use of drones is not combat as much as ‘targeted killing’ . . . the problem lies with operators who become trigger happy with remote controlled armaments, situated as they are in complete safety, distant from the conflict zone. It becomes somewhat like sitting in your living room playing a video game, the game player who sees images on a screen and doesn’t see the real unpleasantness in their actions.
Targeted Killing by a UAV does not only ‘take out’ the individual. The Clinton administration determined that “killing a person who posed an imminent threat to the United States would be an act of self-defense, not an assassination.” This type of new weapon has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including countless innocent bystanders. By not having boots on the ground, it desensitizes the horror attributed to the masses it would affect.
Domestic overuse of drones is one concern.
This new technology is still in its infancy, and with technological advancements, terrorists, criminals or rouge nations could inflict considerable harm with drones in furtherance of their causes. It places global security at a higher risk, and anyone that believes the USA is in control of the situation better get rid of the unicorns in their garages.
Over fifty countries have the technology and many of them - including Israel, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, the United Kingdom, and France - either have or are seeking weaponized drones. Several of these countries do not just possess the technology; they are using it.
We may have control of the sky at the moment, but when you keep poking the hornets’ nest long enough sooner or later you are bound to get stung. Killing by remote control is just a matter of pushing the button.