Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known UAVs, have been developed, and as such, they promise a new revolution in military, and in the transport and shipment of goods and services. UAVs, popularly known as drones, are an aircraft which do not have a human pilot. There are various ways in which they are controlled in autonomy. They can either be controlled by an operator who is located on the ground, or by another vehicle, or by being fully autonomous, that is with the use of onboard computers. There are politics surrounding this new technology (Cavoukian, 2012). Criticism and praises have been brought in equal measure. Despite the critics that have come up regarding ethics and legality of the UAV policy, polls have shown support for the use of this technology. This paper will focus on the politics that surround UAVs. It will look at the issues that have come up to have affected drones.
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has become something of great interest for the United States counterterrorism policy. Between 2004 and 2008, the United States conducted about 50 strikes using drones in the unarmed areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. This number escalated to more than 400 in between 2009 and 2013 (Cavoukian, 2012). In May 2013, President Obama admitted that there was increased use of drones in the United States as a solution for terrorism, and that the use of these aspects was a cure for the criticism that the government had received on the aspect of troop deployment in Iraq. The main advantage of the use of drones is that there is more accuracy in the shooting process, because the soldiers will have to wait for the target to be clear. Also, another advantage is that the soldiers will be protected from being killed. There is also less collateral damage.
There are many criticisms that have been raised from the non-governmental and international organizations on the extent of legality on the use of drones in conducting strikes. The support for drones has generally remained high in the general public, despite the cries that have been seen in the general public on the legality on the use of these aspects of the drones.
In this paper, the argument is that the criticism that is seen in drones use in the military strikes has not helped to translate to lower levels of support for the use of UAVs, but have shown that there is some reason and some legality on the deployment of drones in the military. The governments has defended their use of drones in the fight against Al-Qaeda leadership, and have argued that the move is compatible with international humanitarian law (IHL), especially the principles of distinction and proportionality when it comes to the process of protecting the civilians against the harms that come with conflict. The government also claims that they have all the authorization from the local and international law. These two claims have not gone unchallenged. One of the challenges that have been set against this move is that the use of drones has violated the international law of distinction. This is seen in that the IHL law has been violated according to Article 48 of the Protocol Addition that was done to the Geneva Convention. This principle states that all parties that are listed in the conflict shall at all times be able to distinguish between the combatants and the civilian population and, accordingly, shall be able to direct all the activities according to the military objectives. The challenges of the government initiatives argue that the lists of the people who are targeted are those that do not take part in the hostilities. There is particular censure are reserved for signature strikes. The governments are known to strike individuals basing on their demographic characteristics or patterns that are shown in the behavior.
Even if the targets are legal when it comes to IHL, there is still the issue of proportionality in the manner in which the civilians are affected in the case. Article 51 (5) (b) state that the strikes that affect the civilians describe such attacks as excessive when compared to the military benefits that were anticipated. Critics insist that drones do not work well with the principle of proportionality because strikes normally take place in areas where there is high number of civilians. These areas include funerals, meetings that are undertaken by elders, and meetings of the community members. This will lead to killing of many civilians who are innocent instead of killing the targets that have been targeted in the attack. All the criticisms that have been related to IHL are geared to correct the governments claim that there are many high-level terrorists who have been killed. The counterargument is that of all the 500 militants that were killed in between 2008-2010, only 8% were either top-tier militia targets or mid-to-high-level organizers.
Another critic to the use of drones in military attacks is that there is the one that relates to recourse to force. This is the aspects as to whether the attacks have received authorization from local and international law. The United States Congress gave the authority to make use of military force after the 9/11 attacks, which allowed the president to target the people who took part in the organization, planning, and commitment of the attacks. Also included in the list of the targets are the people who aided this process. This is normally interpreted as targeting Al-Qaeda. One issue that normally comes up is whether the drones strikes are justified under the local and international laws (Franke, 2014). The move to target people who have suspicious behavior in the Arabian Peninsula is something that is still in need of Congress backup and authorization. The critics argue that drones do not have the international authorization in the quest to have their operations legalized. The United States may have acquired the legal footprint and solid backup to use military force in areas they have legal backup, like Afghanistan, but have no authority to use military force in areas they are not involved in armed conflict. These regions include Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan.
Safety issues for UAVs
There are many life threatening and controversial safety that have to be addressed when considering using UAVs. These are among the challenges that are facing these systems in place and in the use. The National Airspace System, run by United States Federal Aviation Administration governs the aircraft progression in the entire airspace of the United States and its allies (Horowitz, and Fuhrmann, 2014). This body is composed of aircrafts, regulations, and the personnel that are included and work in the airspace. There are a number of issues that have to be considered before introducing UAVs to US airspace, especially that this space has hitherto been used by manned aircrafts. Some of the issues that are seen to be on the rise are air collision, ground collision, and reliability of the use of UAVs
The operation of UAS within the air traffic control system (ATC) is different with the ones that have been happening for manned flight system because of the many controversies with this technology. Also, there are many controversies that have not been solved in order to bring order in the airspace. In the manned system, the ATC will issue a command to the pilot to take some action that will be geared towards avoiding collision. There will be adjustment that will be made in order to avoid any form of collision. The safety of the air traffic will be assured through the issuance of commands to the pilots. Also, there is another method that the pilots will avoid the collision from happening. They can visually see the likelihood of a collision from taking place and will do the necessary in order to avoid the collision from taking place. They will also use the Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS). The unit compares the local traffic transponders with the units altitude and makes the necessary adjustments for the aircraft in order to be safe.
In order for the UAVs to avoid collisions, they should have the ability to detect and avoid collision while they are operating in the aircraft. This will ensure that there is security in the aircraft and have the necessary issues on the course of operation while in the sky.
There are also privacy issues that have been an issue for the United States Congress proceedings concerning the operations of UAVs. There has been potential use of the UAVs in drug trafficking menace in order to track the smugglers. They have been used to hover around the scenes of crimes in the various places and spot people who are in the verge of committing crime (Horowitz, and Fuhrmann, 2014). They have also been used to search for children who have been lost on difficult terrain, and look for patients who have Alzheimers disease. They have also aided police in tracking and have been seen to be useful in this case because of the low cost of undertaking.
The use of UAVs is practiced by a few countries, a situation which will change sooner than later. This is because many countries are considering procuring armed drones. The rising usage of drones shows that there is proliferation and widespread use of drones in many contexts. There are debates that might arise on whether there will be a positive development or negative. One thing will remain clear, that drones are here to stay. Focusing on the effects that drones have had in the battlefield, its contributions to the tactics of war and the successes it has had on hitting targets can easily be used to ignore the unfortunate attacks on civilians. There are different values, belief systems, and narratives that have different interpretations on whether there are positive or negative impact of drones on security of both the intervening and the affected sectors.
Cavoukian, A., 2012. Privacy and drones: Unmanned aerial vehicles (pp. 1-30). Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada.
Franke, U.E., 2014. Drones, drone strikes, and us policy: the politics of unmanned aerial vehicles. Parameters, 44(1), pp.121-131.
Horowitz, M.C. and Fuhrmann, M., 2014. Droning on: Explaining the Proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Available at SSRN 2514339.
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