Drone Warfare

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted February 25, 2013

By now, anyone who pays attention to news surrounding Washington is likely aware of the fact that the government has its sights set on incorporating drones into warfare. As new information continues to come to light, however, many people are beginning to wonder just how integral drones will be in the future of warfare.

No longer is this an Orwellian concept best left to science fiction; it has become a modern-day reality. 

In basic terms, drones are unmanned machines used in wartime situations in which human beings would otherwise be necessary. They are capable of carrying out a vast amount of actions, from spying and surveillance to lethal attacks.

While Americans have known of the presence of drones for some time now, it wasn’t until quite recently that the extent to which the government has employed these machines has come to light. 

Last week, republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated during a question and answer setting that U.S. drones have killed 4,700 people thus far, according to Yahoo! News. With many Americans in the dark regarding the extent of the government’s drone program, some are completely up in arms about what this could mean for the future, especially on American soil.

In a recently-released white paper from the U.S. Justice Department, the terms which outline probable cause for utilizing drone strikes against potential threats are given in chilling fashion. According to NBC News, the white paper states that a targeted killing of a U.S. citizen who has joined al-Qa’ida or a similar organization would be lawful. 

As if this in and of itself is not enough to cause American citizens to raise their eyebrows, the memo goes on to state that the government does not need to have specific, clear evidence when determining whether or not an individual poses an “imminent threat” or is planning a terrorist attack. In other words, the U.S. government can use its own discretion in order to determine threat level.

Some feel as if this eliminates an individual’s right to fair trial, while others support the use of drones on suspected terrorists. Perhaps in reaction to this sentiment, state-level laws revolving around drone attacks are beginning to come to fruition.

Virginia recently passed a law that would effectively put a two-year moratorium on drone strikes within state limits. Many believe that other states will follow suit.

Perhaps most chilling is an animated video recently released by the USAF’s Research Laboratory revealing details of tiny “flybot” drones that are currently being developed. These insect-like drones are capable of a wide range of actions, and can hover, stalk targets, and even deploy incapacitating chemicals. In situations where it is called for, these drones can also carry out lethal, targeted attacks.

As of right now, these flybot drones are in the early stages of development. With tiny wing-like attachments that can flutter up to thirty times a second (effectively giving the drones the ability to hover in one place), they are only able to operate for a few minutes without losing battery power.

Other similar drones are shaped like pigeons and have the ability to perch on a power line to not only take surveillance of an area but also steal power so that they can continue to run for long periods of time, as the Daily Mail explains. While advancements in battery technology will be necessary before these drones can be successfully employed, the fact is that they exist, and their use is not far off into the future.

Many people have taken this to the level of conspiracy theory, predicting that the government will use these drones on U.S. soil in order to target more than just suspected terrorists. The military, on the other hand, states that drone devices such as these are necessary in order to further the effectiveness of modern warfare and cut down on the amount of human soldiers that need to be deployed to a certain area. 

Since they are capable of many things that a normal soldier would do, the argument in favor of using these drones is that they will save American lives in large numbers if used properly. 

Regardless of how one feels about the use of drones, there’s no getting around the fact that they are here, and are likely to have a very large impact on modern warfare in the near future. 

Watch the USAF’s video on “insect drones” below.

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