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12 June 2012

FollowUp 3: Lost Drones

The AeroVironment Switchblade as seen at Stars and Stripes
The idea of having a drone in a war zone that weighs about five and a half pounds and can easily fit in a back pack and accurately take out enemy combatants is certainly appealing.  The video, which appears to be pirated, of the Switchblade in action looks perfect for war environments.

The article at Stars and Stripes does not mention the range of the Switchblade.  The official datasheet lists it as having a range of greater than five kilometers (a little over three miles).  Would that limited range be enough to limit collateral damage (killing of innocent civilians)?  Is it sufficient to attack hidden enemies in the field?  Here's a little of the discussion from Stars and Stripes:
The Switchblade drone appears to be an improvement as an alternative to traditional drone strikes, in terms of minimizing civilian harm, but it also raises new concerns, said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School.
She pointed out that when a drone strike is being considered there are teams of lawyers, analysts and military personnel looking at the data to determine whether lethal force is necessary. But the Switchblade could shorten that "kill chain." 
"It delegates full responsibility to a lower-level soldier on the ground," she said. "That delegation is worrisome. It's a situation that could end up in more mistakes being made."
Arms-control advocates also have concerns. As these small robotic weapons proliferate, they worry about what could happen if the drones end up in the hands of terrorists or other hostile forces.
The Switchblade "is symptomatic of a larger problem that U.S. military and aerospace companies are generating, which is producing various more exotic designs," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. "This technology is not always going to be in the sole possession of the U.S. and its allies. We need to think about the rules of the road for when and how these should be used so we can mitigate against unintended consequences."
What happens when one of these is lost?  Is there reason for more or less concern?  Who will own these in ten years?  We know that the Pentagon is purchasing fifty or more of these and is considering more than one hundred.  How many will likely remain classified.

The really big questions are still out there:  Have we really become the world's police service?  Is that part of our designation now in the United Nations or in NATO?  Is this Constitutional?  Lots of questions with no clear answers.

14 December 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
1 January 2012, FollowUp 1.
4 January 2012, FollowUp 2.

1 July 2012, FollowUp 4.

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