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Artificial Intelligence is changing the face of warfare as it has facilitated autonomous military operations leading to more informed decision-making while also increasing the speed and scales of military actions. Currently debated under topics of “The militarization of Artificial Intelligence, The Role of AI and Future Warfare, The Use of Robots and AI” in war and many more, there is a divisive line between how ethical and how efficient the application of AI in battles would make the world a better place. In the following article, we try to answer some of your most difficult questions; weaponizing drones, why use them in warfare and the pros and cons, and then the ethical concerns regarding drones and warfare.
First and foremost, the Federal Aviation Administration would like you to know that it is illegal to weaponize drones, and you may be attracting a penalty of up to $25,000, as noted by Michael Khan (2019) of PCMAG. For such a statement to be brought to our attention, there are many cases, if not a common issue, that drones are being custom weaponized, and it poses a great danger to the user and the general public. In the past, drone manufacturers would provide the police with remote-controlled drones weaponized with tear gas, Tasers, and rubber bullets; however, the accessibility has opened an avenue for even personally acquired drones to be DIY weaponized. The technology used is not as complex as the one used by the military. Still, both ways, either civilian or military, they attach weapons such as bullets holders and bombs to these flying machines and remotely control them against their enemies.
Why Use Drones in Warfare
In the forces, they are known as Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle or combat drones, they are used in warfare as alternatives to aerial missions, and according to Professor Stefan Wolff of Birmingham University, warfare drones are effective in limiting the capabilities of terrorists proactively, lowering collateral damage and minimizing civilian casualties while reducing risks to “our” troops. He also adds that they are more flexible and cost-effective to deploy. They have significantly shifted the costs attributed to warfare since they can be quickly deployed for long periods. Notably, the use of warfare drones ensures lower financial and lifer risks for the people using them compared to piloted aircraft and human forces on the ground.
How are Drones Used in Warfare?
It is plausible to agree with Mike Fowler (2014) of JSTOR that the deployment of Remotely Piloted Aircraft involves various operational and strategic constraints that account for legal issues, operational efficiencies, information operation interdependencies, and technological constraints. These flying robotics are often attached with cameras. After a careful circling of the operation zones by the military planners, the drones are deployed with weapons to make calculated airstrikes as controlled from the bases. As Seraine Page (2020) of Sandboxx notes, military drones are primarily capable of flying for long hours and even up to days without landing to provide surveillance while taking off and remotely landing. They are also flown for extended hours for reconnaissance purposes while equipped with cameras that provide still images and real-time videos. For situational awareness purposes, drones are equipped with GPS locators and measurement devices to provide accurate information on enemy locations, weather, and terrains to help ground troops make educated decisions, as noted by Seraine Page (2020). Last and not least, drones are flown to remote target locations to deliver weapons; this is much clear.
The Pros and Cons of Drone Warfare
In a nutshell, here is how effective or incapable drone warfare is:
- They are cost-effective
- Drone airstrike limit the scale and scope of life casualties to the users
- Drones easily enforce security and surveillance
- They are a faster system of information and war tools delivery.
- They are efficient in surveying dangerous spots.
- They easily decimate terror operations across the world
- They have shorter flight periods (most)
- They are susceptible to vagaries of weather
- Precise operations are challenging to carry out.
- They are vulnerable to forceful access; hacking, and abuse
- They are prone to disasters, killing low-value targets and creating more terror groups.
- They terrorize and kill innocent civilians.
- Drone warfare culminates in extrajudicial assassinations and violations of human rights.
- They violate the sovereignty of the nations attacked.
The use of drones in warfare may also be the changing face of ethical concerns in using such brutal means in warfare and the expanse of the damages both physically and psychologically.
- Humanity: NewStatesman’s writer Trish Glazebrook (2019) notes that the principle of humanity questions the precision of the drones in determining terrorists and civilians.
- The writer states that drones are incapacitated in effectively assessing a target as an enemy combatant and distinct them from innocent people.
- Necessity: Trish Glazebrook postulates that it is cynical that drones have military values compared to ground assault combats as they keep soldiers out of risk of life loss.
- Proportionality: Finally, this principle seeks to understand the proportional motive and the amount of force used in the fights.
Trish Glazebrook. (2019). NewStatesman: Are drone strikes ever ethical? Retrieved from https://www.newstatesman.com/world/north-america/2019/11/are-drone-strikes-ever-ethical
Seraine Page. (2020). Sandboxx: 5 U.S. Military drone uses that may surprise you. Retrieved from https://www.sandboxx.us/blog/5-u-s-military-drone-uses-that-may-surprise-you/
Professor Stefan Wolff. (c2021). University of Birmingham: The ethics of warfare part 3: How does drone warfare change the debate? Retrieved from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/drones-wolff.aspx
Mike Fowler. (2014). JSTOR: The Strategy of Drone Warfare. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/26465233?seq=6#metadata_info_tab_contents
Michael Khan. (2019). PCMAG: FAA: Sorry, It’s Illegal to Weaponize a Drone. Retrieved from https://www.pcmag.com/news/faa-sorry-its-illegal-to-weaponize-a-drone