The federal government will announce a new plan requiring anyone buying a drone to register the device with the U.S. Department of Transportation, NBC news has learned.
The government has been concerned about the rise in close calls between unmanned drones and aircraft flying into and out of some of the nation’s biggest airports. The plan is expected to be announced Monday.
In July, there was a dangerously close encounter between a drone and a passenger jet with 159 people aboard setting up to land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The unmanned aerial vehicle was just 100 feet away from the passenger jet at an altitude of 1,700 feet; normal safe separation distance is between aircraft is at least 1,000 feet.
Private drones were also blamed for hampering aerial firefighting efforts over a California blaze in July.
Firefighting aircraft trying to attack the fast-moving blaze in the Cajon Pass had to leave the area for around 20 minutes over safety concerns, officials said. The fire swept over a busy freeway and torched 20 vehicles.
Under the plan, the government would work with the drone industry to set up a structure for registering the drones, and the regulations could be in place by Christmas.
Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $1.9 million fine against Chicago drone company SkyPan, which was alleged to have flown dozens of unauthorized flights over Chicago and New York since 2012
The energy industry wants to use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor pipelines.
It isn’t all that difficult to imagine a scenario in which hundreds of pipeline drones are actively working to block direct action across the continent.
North American energy companies are planning to use drones to monitor their pipelines—in part to check for potential gas or oil leaks, but also to limit “third-party intrusions,” a broad range of activity that includes anything from unwanted vehicles entering restricted areas around pipelines to environmental activists.
The Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI), a multi-national organization funded by some of the world’s largest pipeline operators like BP, Shell, TransCanada and Enbridge, is leading efforts to research and develop unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for pipeline monitoring. The PRCI has been working with the American Petroleum Institute and the Interstate Natural Gas Association on drone research for the last two years, according to PRCI President Cliff Johnson. He says researchers are currently running test flights.
“It could be a more efficient and more cost-effective tool … than a manned system,” Johnson says.
Today, companies often rely on piloted aircraft for pipeline monitoring. That involves surveillance of the pipeline’s “right of way,” a strip of land surrounding the pipeline whose rights are typically shared by pipeline operators and landowners. In the right of way, which can range from about 25 to 125 feet, companies check for unauthorized vehicles, people and anything else that’s not supposed to be there. Meanwhile, companies engage in additional environmental monitoring to check for potential threats to the integrity of the pipeline, such as leakage.
Drones may ultimately be able to accomplish both of these monitoring tasks more effectively than humans, says Peter Lidiak, pipeline director at the American Petroleum Institute (API). Lidiak believes that pipeline operators will start adopting drones in the next five to 10 years.
These drones will probably be deployed in the United States before taking off in Canada. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will release its regulations for commercial drones, paving the way for thousands of UAVs to enter domestic airspace. Canada, on the other hand, does not yet have any such plans. The country’s FAA equivalent, Transport Canada, does issue licenses for commercial drones, but the existing regulations are stringent.
But this doesn’t mean Canada will miss out on all the action—especially once multi-nationals like TransCanada, which operate on both sides of the border, start using drones on the American segments of their network.
“Given that Canada and the United States, in terms of energy, are very closely connected, I can’t see but that once the restrictions are lifted in the States, there won’t be pressure to do so in Canada,” says Angela Gendron, a national security expert and senior fellow at Carleton University’s Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies.
The use of drones to monitor pipelines, like any other form of domestic surveillance, raises an array of privacy concerns.
In the eyes of the energy industry, anything entering the pipeline’s right of way is ultimately considered a security threat. The logic behind drone surveillance is focused on making it easier for companies to detect those threats—an ambiguous concept that can refer to animals, vehicles, non-violent protesters, violent protesters or unauthorized developers.
Paul Drover, the executive director of Unmanned Systems Canada, the nation’s top drone lobby, advertises the benefits of pipeline UAVs by pointing out their ability to scan for environmental activists. At the international drone lobby’s annual convention in Washington last week, Drover told In These Times that aerial surveillance from UAVs would enable pipeline companies to better detect “folks setting up camp.” When asked if he was referring to activists, Drover replied “that’s the left side of the arc.”
The API’s Lidiak insists that concerns about environmental activism are not driving industry interest in developing drones. Yet he acknowledges that protesters could be covered as potential intruders.
“The primary reason for those monitoring for any kind of intrusion, whether it’s individuals that are potentially protesting or for construction equipment, is really to find out if there’s anyone doing anything on the right of way that might be harmful for the pipeline,” Lidiak says. “The primary purpose wouldn’t be monitoring for activists. You might be able to detect that activity as a result of doing your patrols, but that’s not the primary reason for any kind of patrolling.”
Angela Gendron, who wrote a December 2010 report for Canada’s Department of National Defence about the need to protect the nation’s “critical energy infrastructure,” says that monitoring activists makes a lot of sense from the energy industry’s perspective.
“You do get security officers at private-sector energy companies who are very concerned about environmental activists and I can see that they would feel that a UAV sitting up there hovering for 19 hours or whatever [it may be] would be quite useful,” Gendron says. “As it now stands, they have to rely on police reports and anything else they have on hand to monitor where those activists are going to demonstrate next and so on. Having a UAV up there would be much a more economic measure.”
While the industry appears to only be interested in using drones on completed pipelines for now, UAVs could potentially be used in the future to monitor pipelines under construction. The technology may not be ready today, but if industry enthusiasts are to believed, drones could be a fixture of pipelines 10 to 20 years from now. And with the expansion of the natural gas industry combined with an oil industry eager to link Albertan tar sands to global export markets, pipeline construction doesn’t exactly show signs of slowing down.
As those plans face increased pushback from climate justice activists—whether it’s from radicals in the Great Plains or First Nations groups in western Canada—it isn’t all that difficult to imagine a scenario in which hundreds of pipeline drones are actively working to block direct action across the continent.
Catherine Crump, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, says that “narrowly-targeted” pipeline monitoring isn’t necessarily problematic in itself, but warns about its potential for abuse. “I think drones raise the prospect that Americans will be subjected to constant aerial surveillance in ways they’ve never experienced before and that poses the possibility of changing our ability to engage in political protest,” Crump says.
Jesse Coleman, a Washington, D.C.-based researcher for Greenpeace, points to the fact that TransCanada recently colluded with law enforcement officials to infiltrate a Tar Sands Blockade activist camp in Oklahoma to block a protest from taking place.
“To think they would do that and not use drones to spy on their opposition, I think that’d be a little naïve,” Coleman says. “You are flying over all these miles of pipeline and picking up all this information. What happens when you do see things that are interesting to you? There are so many ethical considerations.”
Drones could also infringe on the privacy of residents who sign agreements with energy companies to allow pipelines to cross their property.
“I would suggest that folks did not sign up for video surveillance when they signed easement contracts,” says Ron Seifert, spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group trying to prevent construction of the Keystone XL’s southern segment in Texas and Oklahoma. “Of course, keep in mind that a lot of these easements go right through landowners’ front yards and backyards. Does that mean that every time they go outside they have to worry that TransCanada, a multinational corporation who is known to share information with the federal government, might be filming them? Does that mean in signing a contract with TransCanada folks are subjected to surveillance and sharing information with the government?”
But Seifert says he wouldn’t expect drone surveillance to dissuade climate justice activists, many of whom are already unafraid of engaging in civil disobedience and risking arrest.
“Regardless of the type of surveillance, I think folks have come to the conclusion that those risks are necessary to take,” he says. “Because to not take action is far more dangerous than to set up a blockade or participate in direct action. We all know that tar sands infrastructure is too dangerous to exist. It’s a threat to the future of the planet.”
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Cole Stangler is an In These Times staff writer based in northeast D.C., covering Congress, corruption and politics in Washington. His reporting has appeared in The Huffington Post and The American Prospect. He’s also the keyboard player for Betsy & The Bicycles, proud to be a former In These Times intern and recovering from his senior history thesis. He can be reached at cole[at]inthesetimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @colestangler.
Drone” is a dirty word at this week’s drone industry convention in Washington.
The sector long has opposed use of the term, which, some argue, carries inherently negative connotations and doesn’t accurately describe the awesome technology seen in today’s unmanned vehicles.
Efforts to stop journalists from using the word “drone” have failed miserably over the years, but the industry hasn’t given up trying.
Inside the media room at the Washington convention center, the WiFi password is the not-so-subtle phrase “DontSayDrones.”
The word is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control.”
At this point, removing the term from the American lexicon — or from future news stories — will be virtually impossible.
Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office had a big day planned. After becoming the first department in the country with its own aerial drone ($300,000!), they were ready for a nice photo op. And then the drone crashed into a SWAT team.
The Examiner reports a painfully contrived police action-athon:
As the sheriff’s SWAT team suited up with lots of firepower and their armored vehicle known as the “Bearcat,” a prototype drone from Vanguard Defense Industries took off for pictures of all the police action. It was basically a photo opportunity, according to those in attendance.
“Lots of firepower” and a “Bearcat” sure sounds like a good photo op. OK, time to launch the $300,000 drone. Here we go. Launch the drone:
“[The] prototype drone was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground. It’s designed to go into an auto shutdown mode…but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle.”
Not only did the drone fail, and not only did it crash, it literally crashed into the police. It’s no wonder we’re not able to find a video of this spectacular publicity failure. Luckily, the SWAT boys were safe in their Bearcat.
This would be a fine one-off blooper story if it weren’t for some upsetting implications. This is exactly why we have reason to raise multiple eyebrows at Congress, which wants to allow hundreds of similar drones to fly over US airspace. These drones are still a relatively young technology, relatively unproven, and relatively crash-prone. The odds of being hit by one are low, of course, but should a Texas-style UAV plummet ever happen in, say, a dense urban area, nobody would be laughing. Not all of us are driving around in Bearcats
After the filibuster spectacle on Capitol Hill by Senator Rand Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote another letter wherein he retracted his original statement concerning Obama’s legality to use drones in targeted assassination of American citizens on US soil. Holder said: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question, ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”
After receiving this letter, Paul agreed to support Brennan’s nomination for director of the CIA.
On a broadcast on FoxNews, Paul said that Holder explained that the President does not have the right to kill unarmed and non-combative Americans on American soil.
Paul claimed a victory with this “answer”; however it is glossed over in the mainstream media that the response from Holder did not clarify who is a combatant.
Based on the National Defense Authorization Act, anyone can be suspected of being a combatant by having alleged ties to a terrorist group.
Just recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have said that constitutionalists and anti-government groups are extremists and liken to being terrorist organizations.
While both the mainstream and alternative media were focused on the dog-and-pony show conducted by Paul and Holder regarding drones, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would grant funding to the federal government through September of 2013 while a supposed major budget cut is running rampant, stifling the economic stance of the US government.
House Representative Harold Rogers, head of the Appropriations Committee introduced this resolution to the tune of $982 billion (just shy of 1 trillion dollars) to avoid a near complete governmental shutdown at the end of this month.The very same day of Paul’s 13 hour filibuster, the House secured funding for the federal government at the expense of taxpayer and under cover of a 13 hour distraction.
While the rest of the country faces sequestering measures, the US Military Industrial Complex will be well funded to conduct their business.
The Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Planned Parenthood would continue to remain funded with that nearly $1 trillion appropriated by the House resolution.
Tamara Keith of NPR explains: “Democrats and the White House have made it clear they don’t like this bill because it locks in across-the-board spending cuts and only gives additional budget flexibility to the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. Senate leaders say they plan to make changes to allow other agencies more flexibility as well. But they aren’t planning to undo the sequester cuts, which means a fight that would threaten a government shutdown is unlikely.”
John Brennan, the Assassination Czar, was sworn in this week as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Vice President Joe Biden. The Obama camp made a special note that Brennan took his oath of office over “an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”
The symbolic tone surrounding the document Brennan swore allegiance to was the version of the Constitution prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights; “which did not officially go into effect until December 1791 after ratification by states.”
The statement here is that Brennan swore to uphold the rights of Americans except their freedom of speech, right to bear arms and right to not have to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.
Considering Brennan’s history with drones and their current application by the DHS of drones to be used as surveillance tools on unsuspecting Americans, the ceremony is fitting.
DHS have secured unmanned aerial vehicles that are equipped to conduct surveillance, intercept cellular communications and determine if the human target is armed.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has obtained performance specification documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that confirm “the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is operating drones in the United States capable of intercepting electronic communications.”
The documents also confirm that the drones “have the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground.” DHS drones were designed to “be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not” and “be capable of marking a target into a retrievable database.”
Alan Gottlieb, founder and vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) responded to the DHS drone capabilities: “I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners. This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”
The California Assembly, specifically members Jeff Gorell and Steven Bradford, have collaborated to restrict the use of drones by the local police and state officials.
Gorell and Bradford have introduced AB 1327 which states emphatically that the law enforcement utilizing drones for surveillance must have obtained a warrant prior to deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The bill states:
(b) A law enforcement agency may use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, if it has a reasonable expectation that the unmanned aircraft system will collect evidence relating to criminal activity and if it has obtained a warrant based on probable cause pursuant to this code. (c) A law enforcement agency, without obtaining a warrant, may use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, in emergency situations, including, but not limited to, fires, hostage crises, and search and rescue operations on land or water.
Should a private person choose to use a drone for surveillance, they will be “subject to Section 14350 or a person or entity under contract to a public agency, for the purpose of that contract, shall not use an unmanned aircraft system, or contract for the use of an unmanned aircraft system, for the purpose of surveillance of another person without that person’s consent.”
While the reality and potential of drones flying in US skies is becoming part of a national debate, the US Air Force have suddenly stopped posting statistics on drone strikes in the Middle East, specifically Afghanistan.
Statistics from last month conveniently went missing when the total analysis was published for the public to see.
Both the Pentagon and Air Force Central Command declined to publically comment on the change. However this change coincided with Paul’s filibuster of Brennan over Holder’s comments that the President could strike American citizens with “lethal force” (using drones) on US soil.
They believe burly, heavily-armed Christopher Dorner is holed-up in the wilderness of California’s snow-capped San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.
The burnt-out shell of his pick-up truck was discovered in the nearby resort of Big Bear, where residents and tourists have been warned to stay indoors as the search continues.
Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.
A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”
The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.
He said: “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement. That’s all I can say at the moment.”
Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for lying about a fellow officer he accused of misconduct, has vowed to wreak revenge by “killing officers and their families”.
In a chilling, 6,000 word “manifesto” on his Facebook page he has threatened to “bring warfare” to the LAPD and “utilise every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordinance and survival training I’ve been given.”
Dorner, 33, who rose to the rank of lieutenant in the US Navy and served in Iraq before joining the LAPD, also ominously warned that he has shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles to “knock out” any helicopters used to pursue him.
Last night, Brian Levin, a psychologist and professor of criminal justice at Cal State University, San Bernardino, said: “We’re talking about someone who basically perceives that a tremendous injustice has been done to him that took his life and identity.
“Now he is, quite literally, at war.”
Dorner’s rampage began last Sunday when he shot dead Monica Quan, 27, the daughter of a former LAPD captain, and her fiancé Keith Lawrence as they sat in their car outside their home in Irvine, California.
Three days later, he stole a boat at gunpoint from an 81-year-old man at a yacht club in San Diego, near the Mexican border. He abandoned the boat when he could not get its engine to start.
by Robert Johnson
Sightings of insect-sized micro drones have been occurring for years, but combined with the direction of genome sequencing outlined in this Atlantic piece— the pair make for a futuristic and potentially deadly mix.
Even back in 2007, when Vanessa Alarcon was a college student attending an anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. she heard someone shout, “Oh my God, look at those.”
“I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?'” she told The Washington Post. “They looked like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects,” she continued.
A lawyer there at the time confirmed they looked like dragonflies, but that they “definitely weren’t insects”.
And he’s probably right. In 2006 Flight International reported that the CIA had been developing micro UAVs as far back as the 1970s and had a mock-up in its Langley headquarters since 2003.
While we can go on listing roachbots, swarming nano drones, and synchronized MIT robots — private trader and former software engineer Alan Lovejoy points out that the future of nano drones could become even more unsettling.
Lovejoy says“Such a device could be controlled from a great distance and is equipped with a camera, microphone. It could land on you and then use its needle to take a DNA sample.”
Assuming all that to be possible, the Atlantic paints a complimentary scenario.
Authors Andrew Hessel, Marc Goodman, and Steven Kotler outline futuristic human genome work that evolves from the very real GE $100 million breast cancer challenge.
In the group’s scenario a bunch of brilliant freelancers receive bids to design personalized virus’ offering customized cures for the sick.
Say you get pancreatic cancer, instead of chemo’ — the first step in treatment will be decoding your genome — which costs about $1,000 right now and takes a couple of days.
An eternity when you’re rife with cancer, no doubt, but a far cry from the two years and $300 million it required less than a decade-and-a-half ago.
But imagine, the three writers ask: it’s 2015, and with information about the disease and your exclusive genome sequence, tomorrow’s virologists will have only a simple design problem on their hands.
The problem will be freelanced out for bids, like a brochure design on Elance, and the winning design will be a formula that’ll rid your body of the cancer.
All of this is pretty plausible, if not a bit short on the timeline, but imagine the request for proposal of your pancreatic cancer cure was something else.
Same scenario applies. The request for a drug tailored to that particular genome is accepted. It’s paid for and forwarded to an online bio-marketplace, which sends it to a synthesis start-up that turns “the 5,984 base-pair blueprint into actual genetic material.”
Here the future of drones and virology could intersect.
A few days later tablets are delivered to a group that dissolves them and injects the liquid into a handful of micro-drones. The team releases the drones and infects the people in the African leader’s circle of advisors or family.
The infected come down with flu like symptoms, coughs and sneezes that release billions of harmless virus particles — but when they bring their symptoms in the vicinity of the African leader — the particles change.
Once the virus particles are exposed to that very specific DNA sequence, a secondary function within their design unlocks. In the Atlantic piece the target is the U.S. president via sneezing Harvard students, but the effect would be the same. In that case it was a “fast-acting neuro-destructive disease that produced memory loss and, eventually, death.”
Same for the African leader, though the symptoms could be tailored an infinite number of ways. Designed to reflect a uniquely local affliction like Dengue Fever, or to appear like symptoms of a genetic condition.
The drone and bio-technologies are approaching the point where something like this is theoretically possible, even if for now, it’s only imagination.
by Eica Ritz
The United Nations and its affiliates have been weighing in on U.S. elections with increasing frequency lately– and it’s understandable, considering a wildly disproportionate amount of its funding comes from the United States. In the most recent event, the U.N. special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights raised what he considers to be the “alarming” implications of a Republican victory.
Ben Emmerson lamented Mitt Romney’s position on waterboarding: “There is no doubt that the Romney administration would be able to claim…a democratic mandate for torture…That would put Romney as the first world leader in history to be able to claim [that].”
While he also objected to the secrecy surrounding President Obama’s drastically expanded use of drones, he apparently considers them a preferable alternative.
Emmerson says he plans to voice his concerns about a Republican victory at an upcoming U.N. meeting, but is not being quiet in the meantime.
The Canadian Press relates:
Emmerson, who was in Toronto to attend a symposium on the negative impacts post-9/11 security measures have had on human rights, said Obama had begun to realign U.S. policy with international law and the universal abhorrence of torture.
Romney’s approach was now threatening to undermine that progress, he said.
“The re-introduction of torture under a Romney administration would significantly increase the threat levels to (Americans) at home and abroad,” Emmerson said.
“Such a policy, if adopted, would expose the American people to risks the Obama administration is not currently exposing them to.” [Emphasis added]
The third debate between President Obama and Governor Romney will focus on foreign policy, where such issues are likely to come up.
However, Twitchy captured a number of tweets from Twitter users already weighing in on the topic. “It seems that most Americans don’t really like the United Nations telling them what to do,” they summarize.
One commenter concluded: “Defund and deport this useless nuisance.”
America’s deadly double tap drone attacks are ‘killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan’
By Leon Watson
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘
There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.
‘These strikes are becoming much more common,’ Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents victims of drone strikes, told The Independent.
‘In the past it used to be a one-off, every now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.’
The study is the product of nine months’ research and more than 130 interviews, it is one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to understand – and evaluate – Washington’s drone wars.
VOICES FROM THE DRONE ZONE
Sadaullah Khan, a 15-year-old who lost both legs in a drone strike, says that before his injury, ‘I used to go to school…I thought I would become a doctor. After the drone strikes, I stopped going to school.’
Noor Behram, a journalist: ‘Once there has been a drone strike, people have gone in for rescue missions, and five or ten minutes after the drone attack, they attack the rescuers who are there.’
Taxi driver: ‘Whether we are driving a car, or we are working on a farm, or we are sitting at home playing cards – no matter what we are doing we are always thinking the drone will strike us. So we are scared to do anything, no matter what.’
Safdar Dawar, President of the Tribal Union of Journalists: ‘If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of the drone. If I’m shopping, I’m really careful and scared. If I’m standing on the road and there is a car parked next to me, I never know if that is going to be the target. Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me. Even in mosques, if we’re praying, we’re worried that maybe one person who is standing with us praying is wanted. So, wherever we are, we have this fear of drones.’
Resident from the Manzar Khel area: ‘Now (they have) even targeted funerals…they have targeted people sitting together, so people are scared of everything’
Despite assurances the attacks are ‘surgical’, researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is ‘ambiguous at best’.
Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.
They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike programme or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over.
They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.
The Obama administration is unlikely to heed their demands given the zeal with which America has expanded its drone programme over the past two years.
Washington says the drone program is vital to combating militants that threaten the U.S. and who use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.
The number of attacks have fallen since a Nato strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan wants the drone strikes stopped – or it wants to control the drones directly – something the U.S. refuses.
Reapers and Predators are now active over the skies of Somalia and Yemen as well as Pakistan and – less covertly – Afghanistan.
But campaigners like Mr Akbar hope the Stanford/New York University research may start to make an impact on the American public.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2208307/Americas-deadly-double-tap-drone-attacks-killing-49-people-known-terrorist-Pakistan.html#ixzz29N7w1SVU Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Drones could soon operate without the help of humans.
Agence France-Presse is reporting that the Pentagon wants its drones to be more autonomous, so that they can run with little to no assistance from people.
“Before they were blind, deaf and dumb,” Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force, told AFP. “Now we’re beginning to make them to see, hear and sense.”
Ronald Arkin, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, believes that drones will soon be able to kill enemies on their own independently.
“It is not my belief that an unmanned system will be able to be perfectly ethical in the battlefield, but I am convinced that they can perform more ethically than human soldiers are capable of,” Arkin told AFP.
Arkin added that robotic weapons should be designed as “ethical” warriors and that these type of robots could wage war in a more “humane” way.
The U.S. military says people will be on the ground to control the drones despite the unmanned robots gaining more independence.
Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution, believes there could be legal hurdles in regards to using robot-controlled drones.
“These responses that are driven by science, politics and battlefield necessity get you into areas where the lawyers just aren’t ready for it yet,” Singer told AFP.
Earlier this year, Singer wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times about the use of drones. In the piece, entitled “Do Drones Undermine Democracy?” he says the use of drones is “short-circuiting the decision-making process.”
“Without any actual political debate, we have set an enormous precedent, blurring the civilian and military roles in war and circumventing the Constitution’s mandate for authorizing it,” Singer wrote. “Freeing the executive branch to act as it chooses may be appealing to some now, but many future scenarios will be less clear-cut. And each political party will very likely have a different view, depending on who is in the White House.”
AFP reports that new military drones will most likely be implemented with more powerful jet engines and have longer range in combat.