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The Pros and Cons of Drones

Drones have received a lot of publicity lately in the nightly news, and I have noticed many inconsistencies about them that I would like to clear up.

First, drones have many different names. Typically, they are often referred to as "killer drones" and "attack drones"; however, they are also sometimes called "spy drones” or "surveillance drones". Note that these more detailed names may imply restricted functionality; however, they may not. Thus, they do cause some minor confusion.

The most technically accurate name for a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV for short. This UAV name helps define drones as unmanned or not piloted by an onboard person. Furthermore, they are aerial vehicles or flying aircrafts. Drones are basically scaled up functionally model airplanes that serve a more utilitarian purpose rather than just for enjoyment of flying a remote controlled aircraft that hobbyists are known to build and fly.

And drones can be both remote controlled by a pilot and/or controlled by a computer. In other words, drones can be preprogrammed to carry out certain actions without direct human piloting.

To confuse the definition of drones further, some non-flying robots are also sometimes called drones.

With just the name and definition of drones being so wide and confusing, it is no wonder that people are also confused by the advantages and disadvantages of drones. So without further explanation of what drones are, here are the pros and cons of UAVs or drones.

The Advantages of Drones
  1. Saves Lives: The most obvious advantage of drones is that they greatly reduce putting military personnel in harm’s way or in combat.
  2. Low Cost: The second most obvious advantage of drones is their low cost, because they are significantly cheaper to purchase, fuel, and maintain than regular airplanes.
  3. Low Risk: Since drones are smaller and can fly lower than traditional airplanes, there is less risk to military hardware.
  4. Operational Hours: Without a human pilot, drones can stay in operation for significantly longer hours of operation without fatigue. Additionally, drone pilots or operators can easily hand off controls of a drone without any operational downtime.
  5. Accuracy: Drones can have more pinpoint accuracy from greater distances, thus reducing collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure.
  6. Lethal: Drones are as lethal to enemy combats as regular airplanes.
  7. Spying: Years before drones were used in combat; drones have proven to increase surveillance, reconnaissance, and general military intelligence.
  8. Deployment: Finally, drones are significantly easier and faster to deploy than most alternatives.
The Disadvantages of Drones
  1. Limited Abilities: Drones have obvious limitations. For example, they cannot communicate with civilians for more detailed intelligence. Drones cannot capture surrendering military personnel, abandoned hardware, or military bases. Drones cannot go from door to door, at least, not yet.
  2. Civilian Losses: Drone warfare often causes collateral damages in civilian lives and property, as well as traditional warfare too.
  3. Counterproductive and Destabilizing: Civilian opinions about drones are typically negative, since they are viewed as an invasion force. The mere presence of drones has been known to convert civilians into military combats. Furthermore, when drones cause collateral damage, such as killing civilians and damaging civilian property, the opinions of civilians decrease even more so. Additionally, some cultures believe the use of drones as not brave and cold hearted. As a result, drones are sometimes counterproductive by more destabilizing some regions.
  4. Too Easy: By making drone warfare very similar to video games, drone warfare makes combat too easy by diminishing ethical decisions.
  5. Work and Personal Life Balance: Some drone pilots or operators have difficulty switching between combat mode at work and civilian mode while not working. This is especially difficulty when drone pilots have minimal transition periods between work and personal, if any at all.
  6. Take Over: Finally, the worst case scenario is when drones or a fleet of drones have been commandeered or taken control by the enemy. While security measures help make this possibility more difficult, it will never be impossible.
Around the world, militaries are continuing to use drones, because they believe the advantages of UAVs outweigh the disadvantages. Furthermore, militaries are even increasing the number of UAVs in their arsenals.

by Phil for Humanity
on 02/20/2013

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