Unarmed Aerial Vehicles, more commonly known as unmanned drones, have become an integral part of the U.S. military. Their use dates back to U.S involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo, where they were strictly used as a surveillance tool for gathering important intelligence about what was happening on the ground. While drone technology is rapidly evolving, the new expanded use of combat drones that can launch hellfire missiles and decimate targets has drawn much criticism from the media and politicians alike. What drones bring to the table in industries other than war, however, has largely been ignored.
UAV critics are certainly not wrong in their judgement of the ways in which drones are now used in war. Their use as bombers has been expanded drastically since President Barack Obama took office, and his administration remains tight-lipped on the drone program, providing no clear account of the policy that surrounds drone strikes.
What we do know about drone strikes doesn’t sound too great. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Pakistan has been the target of 325 drone strikes since Obama took office. Nearly 1,000 civilians have been killed in these operations. Those aren’t the numbers you want to see if you’re a champion for global human rights and state sovereignty. The truth is, drones have become an effective tool if you want to kill some people by pressing a button from half way around the world.
Say what you will about the use of drones in achieving U.S foreign policy goals, but the technology will definitely be used for the greater good in other ways. Farmers are now using various unmanned drones to monitor crops in a much quicker and efficient way than ever before. Search and rescue missions will be aided by the use of drones and the high tech cameras they’re equipped with, saving countless lives, just as they take them abroad. With the right equipment on board, UAVs can even monitor pollutants in the air and oceans, providing a powerful tool in the fight against climate change.
For these positive aspects of drone use to be realized, though, government regulators will need to step up and update policies surrounding the use of drones domestically. The FAA has strict laws surrounding their use even in agriculture, and congress must make an effort to pass new legislation to prevent drone technology from falling into the dirty hands of the NSA as a tool for spying on American citizens and to ensure that the technology isn’t abused by local law enforcement agencies.
No matter what could be argued about the current military uses of drones, the positive technological advances shouldn’t be overshadowed by paranoia. The truth is, whether you like it or not, drone technology is here to stay. The sooner the drone issue is addressed by public policy officials and politicians, rather than being hidden as a covert weapon, the sooner drones can be safely harnessed as a powerful tool for the best.
Dylan Lajoie, aka “Pickles,” is a senior political science major with a concentration in international studies.