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Drones at war (UAVs)

Military UAVs have been heavily used by the US and UK in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Does the difference between their use in theory and what happens in practice affect their "value"?

Responding to Urban warfare

Traditionally armies have worn uniforms and placed themselves away from civilians so that everyone would know who was fighting and who was not involved. But in many recent conflicts, one side has become invisible by not wearing uniforms and hiding in urban areas. This leaves soldiers with an ethical problem - how to fight an enemy who hides where you can't attack without hurting civilians and causing large scale destruction?

In theory, military drones should help, providing the information to decide who is or is not a combatant and then to attack by using smaller weapons with great precision. All without endangering the pilot. 
In practice, reports from conflict zones have shown that many civilians are injured and killed, either by being mistaken as combatants or simply by being nearby.

Questions: If you are a drone pilot and are not in danger, does this make it easier to decide to kill?

UAVs cost less, are zero risk to pilots and produce fewer civilian casualties than if large weapons were used in urban areas.

Top - US Reaper attack UAV
Middle - US Predator controls 2007
Bottom - UK Black Hornet personal UAV
Click to enlarge

The case FOR drone use

The case FOR drone use

Supporters claim UAVs allow the military to be more ethical. Pilots may be far away, but with the drone's cameras they have excellent vision. They can take their time to decide if the place/person they are studying actually is a military target and if bystanders can be protected by waiting.

Unlike weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, military UAVs can strike with great accuracy and minimum risk to those making the attack.

UAV operators are bound by the same international rules of war as soldiers physically on the battlefield. They can also be prosecuted for failing to follow these rules.


The case AGAINST drone use

The case AGAINST drone use

Drone operators are not actually present, not in physical danger and not surrounded by the extra information that someone on the ground might use to add good judgement in the heat of a battle. UAV operators experience something closer to a video game, where there are no consequences for yourself if you make a mistake. Indeed, killing takes so little effort that there is a risk that the operators become numb and no longer feel the seriousness of what they do.

Activity: Where is UAV technology going?

How might this technology develop? Watch this video from arms maker General Dynamics. If your school does not allow you to watch YouTube videos, ask your teacher to show you.
 The future of drones in urban warfare?

Drones: Autonomous drones

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