A Look at the Irrational Fear Many Have When it Comes to “Drones”

582351_10151838178507489_1605867618_n“Drones are flying over your head right now.  Watching.  Recording.  And they will kill you if they feel like it!  Be afraid!”  When I talk to individuals who are adamant opponents against drones, this is essentially the kind of vibe I get from them.

And it makes absolutely no sense.  I just don’t get it.  Why are people so terrified of drones?

Is it the word?  I guess “predator” or “reaper” aren’t the most cuddly of words to put in front of “drone.”  Sometimes I feel as if when people hear the word “drone” they think of some autonomous robot flying over our heads with the ability to kill people indiscriminately.

Which is absolutely absurd.

They seem completely blind or ignorant to the fact that drones are controlled by humans.  A drone doesn’t fly without someone behind the controls.  A drone doesn’t fire any kind of weapon without a human controlling that function.

Drones are no different than any gun, tank or plane our military (or law enforcement agency) has used or currently uses.  A drone without a human in control is just as useless as an F-22.  If there’s no one there to fly either machine, they’ll both sit idle on a runway.  The only difference being that when an F-22 does take off, a human is sitting in the cockpit.  When a drone takes off, the pilot doesn’t go with the plane.  But make no mistake, there is still a pilot controlling it.

Which is something else that I find completely ironic.  Many of the most vocal anti-drone people are often some of the most vocal anti-war people.  It’s those who believe, and with justification in many instances, that our troops are needlessly put in harm’s way.  It’s the same people who often talk about the thousands who’ve died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, don’t drones reduce the amount of instances we put living, breathing troops in harm’s way?  If we didn’t have drones, wouldn’t we be using live pilots in planes like the F-22 or F-18?

And while I know these people would prefer our troops weren’t deployed at war, the fact is they are at war.  And these people can harp on against war all they want, the fact of the matter is war is going to happen. And personally, when it happens, I’d prefer drones be used as much as possible with our troops sitting miles away in safety as opposed to being put directly in harm’s way.

But that’s just me.  I’m a realist.  I might not like war (though I don’t oppose all wars) but if they’re going to be fought I’d prefer putting our troops in the least amount of danger.

Which goes the same for our law enforcement.  I don’t drive to work without seeing police officers driving around “patrolling.”  I know cops who put their lives on the line every day and night.  If they can use a drone to help aid in their law enforcement methods, such as a manhunt for someone wanted for murder who’s a threat to kill again, I have no problem with it.  If our brave men and women who don the “shield of law enforcement” to protect our cities and towns can utilize drones to better do their jobs, while reducing the risk to their lives—I say let them use drones.

You know why?  Because the drones are still controlled by humans! 

And while these anti-drone people often freak out about the possibility of a drone flying over their home “spying” on them, they’re also the same people who frequently use Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps or any other number of mapping sites.  Sites where you can go to their “satellite view” and zoom down on almost any place on earth within a couple of hundred feet and see into anyone’s backyard.  Granted, these aren’t “live images,” but the fact remains this is technology we know is there.  Yet now we want to act terrified of it and outraged at the thought of it being used?

I just don’t get it.  Why wouldn’t someone support drones as opposed to putting actual human lives at risk?  Now, if drones suddenly became some form of artificial intelligent mechanism where humans were eliminated from the decision making process, then I’d have a real problem with their use.

But for now, I just view them as another tool being used by our military and law enforcement officials to carry out tasks that otherwise might put the lives of our brave men and women in harm’s way.

Because at the end of the day whether it’s a drone, tank, fighter jet, helicopter, warship–they’re all still controlled by human beings.  And when it comes to the lives of those brave men and women who protect us, I’d prefer if  they’re going to be risking their lives, they be as safe as possible while doing it.

And if using a drone can provide a safer tool for these individuals to put themselves at less risk—I have absolutely no problem with it.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • LJack912

    I don’t really want drones flying over my street any more than I want a tank riding down my street. Or cameras mounted on telephone poles watching me. I agree with the use of drones in war, but I really would like to think that my government is not at war on my street.

    • Amy Moon River

      When have you ever seen a drone flying down your street?

      • Meric Ackerman

        Because where they’re going they don’t need roads.

  • Gary Sims

    When you take the risk of losing a human life out of the equation, it makes war a lot easier to stomach; at least for the nation (us) who are in possession of that vehicle.

    • caFfiend

      you mean an American life. It’s not like drones shoot at rocks and trees alone.

    • Virginia Ann Ullrich-Serna

      Anyone remember the Star Trek Episode were war between two planets was conducted like a lottery and if the place were you were awas hit you had 12 hours to report to an extermination chamber?
      That war had been going on for hundreds of years because it was clean and there was lose of life but no destroyed buildings of loss of crops and production. That is how Drone warfare seems to me.
      Hi look at me i’m playing a FPS but this time the people I shot are really dead. It is immoral and if the news was allowed to show what really goes on like they did durung Vietman , Iran and Afghanistan would of ended a long time ago, just because NO ONE wants to see people killing each other.

  • Meric Ackerman

    There are unmanned drones out there, just to counter your main point. There is a major problem you missed, though, even with a human in control. The human in control is as detached from the situation as a human playing a video game. I’ll assume you’re intelligent enough to completely change your stance based on this new information you apparently missed before.

    • jdubhub68

      Isn’t a drone without a pilot an unmanned drone, by definition?

      • Meric Ackerman

        I mean there are fully autonomous units designed to patrol and switch to battle mode based on pre-programmed triggers. Right now they only follow human patrols and are programmed to defend them.

  • Louis Newton

    I take the point that drones are, at present, extensions of ourselves and that a human being is always at the controls. I accept the utility of spy drones. But the idea that somehow war (presumably just for our side?) can be made safe and tidy, something to be conducted in the comfort of an easy chair in a bunker (with a snack bar and espresso machine handy?) while we blow other people to bits (combatants or otherwise), this aspect of the argument I find morally repulsive. . .or, more simply, just plain immoral. At the moment I don’t see a way back from that belief. At the moment I don’t even want to see a way back from that belief. Others will have to follow their own conscience – and perhaps be grateful that I don’t have any real say in the matter!

  • bill bixler

    I am against war but war does happen and it always will. There are tools for war that each faction uses. You can strap a bomb on yourself and wipe out 50 unsuspecting people at a time, that’s the personal touch. You can blow up an entire building and hundreds in it using a cell phone an igniter and some fertilizer or a pressure cooker full of nails. It’s still a remote device and it is totally random. Collateral damage be damned. I watched “Shock and Awe” from my TV as Dick Cheney and his pet George Bush sent bombs and fighter jets and leveled Baghdad. Mostly done by remote control except for the jets. As much as I hate to see anyone killed, the drone technology is the most surgical way to kill the top dogs of any waring organization. If these targets choose to keep their families by their side while they order suicide bombings over their cell phones and they lose family members in a drone strike, it’s on them. When you are at war, you don’t bring the wife and kids with you.

  • DCochran

    Mr. Clifton,

    Well, either you’ve just insulted the intelligence of the majority of your readers, or I’m reading the wrong blog. Do most of your readers really believe that drones use some artificial intelligence or random seed in selecting targets? Is their understanding that the operator enters a
    target’s name, and the drone Googles it to determine an address to annihilate? I didn’t think so.

    My guess is that you’ve misinterpreted your reader’s concerns about the widespread use of this technology as a fear of something of which we have
    no understanding. You’ve also made the false assumption that one is either in favor of unrestrained use of this technology, or absolute elimination of it. Your article leads me to believe you are the former, whereas probably most of your readers (including myself) are in the middle.

    Why wouldn’t we want to use all the tools available to us against our enemies you ask? Other readers have pointed out the disconnectedness of the operator – a fact not lost on collateral victims of the technology. How about the enormous cost? What price is too high to pay to kill a medium value target? Remember, high value targets such as Saddam and Osama
    get the personal touch because you don’t get much intel from a drone kill.

    Does anyone know the ratio of collateral deaths to successful target hits? Last I heard (granted this was from Rummy), we don’t track civilian casualties. Seems to me, if we care, we’ve got to keep count so we know if we are improving.

    Is anyone trying to ascertain the number of terrorists created as a result of each one killed? If it’s a net positive, we might want to re-assess our strategy if the goal is terrorist reduction, not showing off our military hardware.

    Lastly, the only thing that makes war inevitable at this point is the fact that so many people on both sides believe it is so. If you buy that logic, you are part of the problem. If everyone took the position that the last thing we should do is to take another’s life, war would be a thing of the past. Making it easy to kill our enemies, without endangering ourselves, moves us farther from that goal.

  • jerrystraut

    Northrop Grumman X-47B. Do you really think that we are not developing drones that don’t need a human controller? Wake up. Do a little research.

  • J-Way

    What people don’t seem to realize is that the much feared “drones” used by US Police agencies are nothing more than fancy remote-controlled airplanes or helicopters with cameras. My college roommate built one out of spare parts 20 years ago just to see if he could do it. Technology has advanced considerably since then (he used a video recorder, modern ones stream the video in real time), but the concept is the same.

    No police agency in the US owns or operates any of the military drones armed with missiles.

  • Steve

    Allen Clifton should do some research into the Posse Comitatus Act, in which Obama has walked all over without regard to our Constitution. People don’t need spy drones flying overhead anymore than we need tanks patrolling our streets.