The Morality of Drones

05.14.13

The Morality of Drones

05.14.13
Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/USAFStaff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/USAF

The world is witnessing a chasm that will set American war technology far above the rest of the world. Whereas drones were once used for land surveillance, now they are being equipped with bombs and are being used for targeted assassinations. There are limited political restraints on the legality and morality of a drone strike. Drones are a dirtier and asymmetrical type of warfare, the inevitability of mass casualties, which begs the question of morality, as well as the prospect of vulnerable robotic systems.

Manned air warfare has been used for over a hundred years. However, with the development of Unarmed Air Vehicles (UAVs), the need for human pilots has been eliminated. During the First World War the U.S. Navy used “air torpedoes,” unmanned Curtis biplanes, with attached TNT, designed to nosedive at a target and explode. However, the planes never gained enough interest before the end of the war in 1918. After many other failed attempts to develop a useable drone, the project remained stagnant for years. Then in the 1950s the U.S. Military created a “proto-drone” known as the Cruise Missile, and with that design, engineers were able to tinker with the mechanics to create the “modern drone” in the early 1990s.

During this time drones have been used specifically for surveillance and it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the U.S. Air Force started attaching missiles to their unarmed aircrafts. America started flying drones over the Middle East in 2000 and the first non-military supported drone strike was on February 4th, 2002. Many other countries besides the United States use drones; Israel being one of the leading exporters of drones in the world. They created their first functional drone in the 1970s and have one of the most technologically advanced drones of the modern era, the Heron TP Eitan. To this day more than 50 different countries, political and even religious groups, use drones.

There are many arguments surrounding the use of drone warfare beginning with the question, should the world allow drones to penetrate modern day warfare? Most of the politics surrounding these machines are based on the safety, capability, and even the morality of drones. Proponents argue that drones are a “smart bombing” system and therefore more exact and less prone to human error. However, countless civilians have been killed in drone strikes usually as the result of collateral damage.

It is emotionally appealing to consider drone warfare. Since the military is not sending soldiers out on missions, there are no casualties if the plane is shot down or malfunctions. However, the danger behind this is that we no longer have an emotional pause causing us to think about sending planes with bombs on missions. As with any technological system, there is always the possibility of a glitch. Human have not yet created a perfect robot. If an armed drone were to malfunction then there could be a whole slew of untold disasters.

The art of war is constantly changing to compensate for the advances in technology. However, with the creation of drones, there is an underlying fear of mass destruction. Drones are an initiation for unfair fights, the breach of humane warfare, and the setup for technological disasters. Unarmed Air Vehicles equipped with bombs should be banned from warfare, in order to spare the world from inevitable disasters.

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