Drone Program Research Paper

Table of Content

I. Introduction

Technology is a constantly expanding field in today’s rapidly evolving society. Since the 1900s, significant advancements have been made in aircraft technology, resulting in the creation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. Drones are vehicles that can be operated remotely or programmed without the need for a human pilot.

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In the 1930s, drones were introduced as tools for combat training purposes. The first reusable drone designed for use as an aerial target during training missions was called the Queen Bee. It was used by gunners in the Royal Navy to practice shooting them down.

During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, drones took on a new role as stealth surveillance devices. Engineers focused on reducing radar exposure by using specially designed screens, radar-absorbing blankets, and anti-radar paint. These efforts allowed them to control the drone’s flight over specific areas and then safely retrieve it afterwards.

From the 1990s up until now, numerous new types of drones have been developed and incorporated into various countries’ fleets. One notable example is the Firebird 2001 which utilizes technologies such as GPS to provide real-time and highly precise information about wildfires.

Pathfinder, a solar-powered ultra-lightweight research aircraft, underwent testing for environmental research purposes, specifically to gather wind and weather data.

The success of drones has solidified their prominence in high-tech military arsenals worldwide. The U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have all integrated them into their military strategies [1]. While drones serve various functions, they are primarily recognized for their military and intelligence applications such as aerial surveillance and attacks.

Their lack of pilots allows them to efficiently collect intelligence and target suspected terrorists, making them an effective tool. Drones can be deployed to hostile territories without endangering pilot lives. They can operate for extended periods without concerns about shifts or human endurance while delivering precise strikes.

In doing so, drones offer time-saving measures, cost reduction, and accurate information. However, there are concerns about their usage. Are drones being used in ways that prioritize American interests? Are they an essential part of a broader counterterrorism strategy or have they become the sole strategy? Do the security benefits derived from drone programs outweigh the associated political and social consequences [2]? The ongoing advancements in robotic technology have further intensified debates surrounding drone technology encompassing ethical,
legal,and security concerns.

II. Ethical Issues

The advancement of technology and robotics has raised concerns about their ethics. The ethical implications of using drones, both by the US government and private companies, have sparked a debate. Drones have various military purposes, primarily surveillance and attacks. They are equipped with missiles and cameras and are deployed to eliminate alleged terrorists. However, a report from the New America Foundation reveals that drones have caused the deaths of 1,953 to 3,279 individuals in Pakistan between 2004 and now. Shockingly, non-militants accounted for 18% to 23% of these casualties, while high-level targets only made up 2%.

The following chart shows that children and civilians make up a significant number of victims in drone attacks. Although the quantity may not be large, it highlights the severe consequences associated with drone usage.

Is it justifiable to use them when such actions result in harm being inflicted upon numerous innocent lives?

Critics argue that the current protocol for targeting American citizens who are overseas using drones is unconstitutional and grants excessive power to the president. According to the Fifth Amendment, no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. It is concerning that in such cases, the president assumes multiple roles as the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner (Angus King, senator Maine).

[4] The utilization of government-operated drones infringes on citizens’ rights and bestows ultimate authority upon the government. Currently, individuals considered suspects are immediately targeted without any chance for self-defense rather than being given an opportunity to defend themselves through questioning. These targeted Americans are denied their right to a fair trial [5]. Existing legislation permits drone attacks on U.S. citizens if they are believed to hold senior positions within Al Qaeda or its affiliated forces even in the absence of clear evidence regarding an active plot against the U.S. [6]. There remains an ongoing debate about whether such attacks on American citizens can ever be justified since constitutional rights must always apply to them. The U.S. government is presently evaluating guidelines for drone attacks with a particular focus on ethical considerations. Regardless of innocence or guilt, it is essential that a humanitarian approach is adopted in addressing this situation and safeguarding American lives as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Drones are utilized not only by the government for security purposes but also by private corporations and individuals for various trivial tasks. These drones gather information through flying over private properties and homes. The issue of privacy has sparked a debate on whether drones should be allowed to fly over private property without the owner’s consent. This raises the question: is airspace fair game? Can individuals use airspace to spy from above since they are technically not on the property? In 1946, the United States Supreme Court declared that “the air above the minimum safe altitude of flight…is a public highway and part of the public domain,” but this ruling predates drone technologies capable of spying on individuals. It remains uncertain if this ruling still applies. As drone technology continues to advance and gain popularity, these questions need clarification and answers. Currently, there are weak laws surrounding drone usage with no concrete support. Due to privacy concerns, forty-two states have proposed legislation to regulate drones as of May 2013. The Federal Aviation Administration currently holds responsibility for regulating drones; commercial use is prohibited, and public institutions must obtain authorization while hobbyists can operate small drones within certain limits.The enforcement of these regulations is insufficient, and the term “commercial endeavor” lacks a clear definition, leading to multiple interpretations.[8]

III. Legal Issues

The current definition of a drone, which refers to an unmanned aircraft that operates autonomously, fails to adequately address the potential risks associated with these robotic aircraft. While drones are classified as part of civil aviation, recent discussions about military applications have raised questions about their categorization. Consequently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), responsible for governing civil aviation, does not have authority over drones used for military purposes. The versatile nature of drones renders the definition alone insufficient in encompassing their various uses and predicting future applications. This leads to confusion regarding which administration should regulate drones and determine appropriate usage scenarios.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2004, the United States government established its first-ever drone program. Since then, drones have become indispensable assets deployed by the US military for diverse missions. Despite evolving roles in military operations, FAA regulations still apply to drones. Currently, only government agencies, select public universities, and limited private companies are allowed to use drones. However, there are plans to expand this list to include more private companies in order to enhance regulation on drone usage in the future.

According to existing regulations: Drones must fly below 400 ft., operate during daylight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), remain within visual line of sight (VLOS), and stay at least 5 miles away from airports.The use of drones is not restricted [11], leading to various applications in military intelligence, emergency response, and infrastructure projects. However, the military’s utilization of drones has raised controversy as they are crucial in combatting terrorism through surveillance and targeted strikes against terrorists in Northwest Pakistan. These attacks are deemed legal due to the ongoing war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but their legality remains uncertain due to conflicting frameworks – the Law of Armed Conflict (LOCA) and the Criminal Justice system [12]. LOCA allows combat forces to take necessary actions for achieving military objectives like combating terrorism [13]. On the other hand, drone attacks violate due process in the Criminal Justice system by bypassing proper legal procedures. Due process ensures that both Americans and noncitizens have the right to “liberty” or “life” without following appropriate legal steps. Drone attacks are considered unlawful executions as they infringe on the accused’s right to a fair trial. Additionally, these attacks undermine government separation of powers by impeding judicial review and executive branch accountability [14].

IV. Security Concerns

Drones have become a significant security concern due to their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. Todd Humphreys and his team demonstrated how easily drones can be hijacked by manipulating their GPS signal through spoofing techniques. Spoofing involves sending false coordinates to the drone’s control system, causing it to deviate from its intended path. This poses a threat not only to GPS receivers but also allows hackers to potentially take control of military drones. The successful hijacking of a civilian drone was possible because it relied on an unencrypted GPS system instead of the more secure military version.

The increasing use of mobile devices with GPS systems raises concerns about the future security of this technology. The risk associated with GPS spoofing in drone technology could lead to sensitive information leaks as drones are capable of storing large amounts of data through various sensors, GPS systems, and cameras. An example occurred in December 2009 when militants in Iraq intercepted live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones using inexpensive software. By intercepting unprotected communication links within remotely operated planes’ systems, Iranian-backed insurgents gained valuable information that could be used to avoid or monitor U.S. military operations [17].The lack of evidence of militants gaining control over or disrupting the flights of drones did not prevent these interceptions from compromising mission surprise and aiding insurgents in identifying areas under U.S. surveillance. This vulnerability, resulting from heavy reliance on unmanned drones, allowed adversaries to exploit it [Gorman, Siobhan]. On December 4th, 2012, Iranian authorities took possession of a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 drone that was being utilized by American forces for reconnaissance operations. The captured drone had been sent back from Afghanistan to Palmdale for maintenance purposes, and its data divulged valuable strategic information about ongoing missions and precise locations. However, concerns are now emerging regarding the rapid advancement of drone technology as potential security risks that could affect everyone.

This section explores International Usage and the Issues related to this topic.

Japan and China are using drones for surveillance purposes in their competition to control disputed islands in the East China Sea. However, the United States has the largest supply of drones. Despite claims that their drones are only for surveillance, experts warn that conflicts and tensions related to drone activity between these countries are highly likely. These islands, known as Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, have potential oil reserves which further intensify the challenge to Japan’s sovereignty from China and Taiwan. While Japan plans on acquiring advanced drone models from the United States, China is expanding its own drone program. In 2012, China showcased eight new drone models at an air show through state-owned press photographs; doubts remain about their actual capabilities as only ground photographs were displayed. According to Japanese news outlets, within two years, Japan’s defense ministry intends to deploy Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk drone near the disputed Senkaku islands. This US-made drone does not possess attack capabilities. After failing to detect a low-flying Chinese aircraft over the islands with radar systems, improving surveillance capability has become a priority for Japan. A Japanese defense ministry official has announced plans to use drones in response to China’s assertiveness at sea concerning the Senkaku islands [19].China’s military drone program is shrouded in secrecy, but a 2012 Pentagon report acknowledged their development of advanced stealth drones that could potentially surpass those of the United States. Currently, the United States has the largest variety and number of drones globally, boasting over 800 active service drones known worldwide [20]. While more than seventy countries possess some form of drone technology, only a select few nations have armed drones at their disposal. Notably, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel are recognized for conducting drone strikes against their adversaries. Out of these three nations, Israel stands out as it utilizes drones not only for defensive purposes but also offensively over the Gaza Strip. Interestingly enough, Israel has emerged as the leading global exporter of drones, surpassing even the United States in sales revenue from 2005 to 2012 by generating over $4.5 billion compared to America’s estimated two to three billion dollars [21]. According to Israeli defense officials, drones have played a pivotal role in recent conflicts within the Gaza Strip. While Israel maintains that its primary use for these unmanned aircraft is surveillance-related activities; Palestinians argue that they can also be weaponized and have been responsible for numerous airstrikes on civilians. The extent of attack capabilities possessed by Israeli drones remains unclear; however, it is worth noting that exported Israeli drones lack such features. With advancements in technology and lower manufacturing costs associated with drone production becoming increasingly accessible; more countries now have opportunities to develop their own drone capabilities.Due to the growing global adoption of drones, countries are employing them in diverse beneficial ways. Therefore, it is crucial to develop international laws that guarantee ethical and secure practices related to their utilization [22].

VI. Case Study

The United States military has been conducting drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004. These attacks are claimed to be more precise and safer than traditional missiles and sending military personnel. They mostly occur in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Northwest Pakistan, where drones are used for tracking and investigating potential terrorists. During a 14-month period, the military reported only one civilian death resulting from the drone attacks. However, it is difficult to accurately determine the total number of deaths and distinguish between civilians and terrorists. The military does not have formal guidelines for confirming terrorists before attacking; instead, the decision is based on surveillance interactions, living environment, and other behaviors categorized as “Signature Terrorist Profiles.” In a recent press conference, President Obama stated that drone attacks are legal and effective in eliminating terrorists, as the United States is officially at war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. However, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has requested that the United States military stop these drone attacks.The Prime Minister’s request to the president has not yet been answered. Whether the attacks were legal or not, the ethical concern remains. The United Nations Human Rights Council, backed by countries like Russia, China, and Pakistan, had called for a halt to drone attacks before President Obama’s press conference. This was to protect the lives of civilians in multiple countries. Additionally, the drone war has completely violated the security, privacy, and overall human rights of tribes in the affected areas. A man who lost multiple loved ones in a drone attack claimed, “We are innocent. This is murder” [24].

VII. Reflection

Drones have been referred to as a disruptive innovation due to their unethical and dehumanizing use, particularly in warfare. The ability to think and reflect is what distinguishes humans from robots and makes us human. However, the military’s use of drones in war zones of Pakistan has brought fear and terrorism upon the tribal people. Instead of solving the issue, drones are causing it and should be discontinued. The military argues that these attacks are legal, but in reality, they violate human rights as they are executions without due process under the Criminal Justice system. Conducting warfare from the comfort of a base is unacceptable. Apart from legality, the ethical aspect of drone attacks is crucial. Drones lack the ability to differentiate between unarmed civilians and terrorists as they operate based on programmed instructions. It is alarming that drone attacks result in more civilian casualties than terrorist deaths, despite the military’s claim that such actions are necessary to protect American lives. Therefore, we question the necessity of killing civilians with the hope of eliminating a few terrorists among them. It is our firm belief that this approach is unnecessary.

VIII. Conclusion

The word “drone” elicits mixed emotions from many individuals. Drones have made significant advancements since the 1900s and their impact on our daily lives has both positive and negative implications for our society. On one hand, drones have revolutionized agriculture and enhanced the effectiveness of warfare strategies. Conversely, their use has sparked controversy surrounding ethical, legal, and security risks. While drones have proven to be a powerful tool in launching attacks, the ethical aspect of their involvement in human lives raises concerns. Deployed in warfare, drones can effortlessly eliminate numerous enemies; however, questions arise regarding fairness in battle. Furthermore, the use of surveillance and recording capabilities by drones encroaches upon citizens’ privacy. Additionally, drone technology presents legal challenges and potential violations of rights due to the lack of clear regulations. The security of drones is another crucial factor to consider in their operation. The combination of GPS spoofing and advancing technology has facilitated the interception and hacking of drones by malicious individuals, leading to the leakage of sensitive information. As drone technology expands rapidly, there are inevitably downsides to its usage. Ultimately, it is clear that drone technology has become increasingly prevalent in today’s society and is here to stay. It is now our responsibility to weigh these ethical, legal, and security issues against the benefits they provide.

IX. Works Cited

[1] “Timeline of UAVs.” PBS. WGBH, Nov. 2002. Web. 04 June 2013.

[2] Boyle, Ashley S. “Contextualizing the Drones Debate.” Rep. American Security Project, Aug. 2012. Web. 06 June 2013.

[3] In an article titled “Hacking Drones … Overview of the Main Threats,” Pierluigi Paganini discusses the main threats associated with drone hacking. The article was published on InfoSec Institute Resources RSS on June 4, 2013, and accessed online on June 5, 2013.

[4] Kevin Liptak reports in CNN Security Clearance RSS that according to Gates, the drone program, although useful, would benefit from increased oversight. The article was published on February 10, 2013 and accessed on June 3, 2013.

The source of this information is an article written by Kevin Zeesee titled “Anti-Drone Movement Grows: Ethics, Legality, and Effectiveness of Drone Killings Doubted,” published on Truthout’s website on April 24, 2013.According to Ghigliotty (2013), the White House is claiming that conducting drone strikes on Americans within the United States is both legal and ethical, even if there is no evidence of an imminent attack. The article from DailyMail UK states that the White House considers such actions to be wise.

[7] The Atlantic Monthly Group published an article titled “If I Fly a UAV Over My Neighbor’s House, Is It Trespassing?” on October 10, 2012. This source can be accessed online and was last accessed on June 5, 2013.

[8] Liz Goodwin, Yahoo! News states that privacy is becoming a significant concern as regulations on drones become less strict. This was reported on Yahoo! News on May 30, 2013 and can be found on the web as of June 6, 2013.

[9] According to classified documents, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not always have knowledge of the identities of the individuals being killed in drone strikes. This information was revealed by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem in an article titled “CIA Didn’t Always Know Who It Was Killing in Drone Strikes” published on NBC News’ website on June 5th, 2013. The article was accessed on June 7th, 2013 from the NBC News website.

[10] The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is making progress in integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). As reported by Aeryon Labs Inc on May 16, 2012, this development is of great significance. For more information, please visit the FAA’s website.

[11] The website “UAV Regulations” provides information on regulations for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS). This website is owned by Aeryon Labs Inc and was last accessed on June 7, 2013.

[12] Rosenthal, Joel H. “Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?” Carnegie Council. Carnegie Council, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 June 2013.

[13] Powers, Rod. “Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).” About.com US Military. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2013.

The source of the information provided is a web article called “Bush Detained Alleged Terrorists Without Due Process – Obama Is Killing Them With Drones,” written by Stephen Rohde. It was published on Truthout on March 13, 2013, and accessed on June 3, 2013.

[15] Glor, Jeff. “Drone “hijackings” in the United States raise security concerns.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 04 July 2012. Web. 06 June 2013.

[16] “Researchers Use Spoofing to ‘hack’ into a Flying Drone.” BBC News. BBC, 29 June 2012. Web. 06 June 2013.

[17] Ngak, Chenda. “Drone Technology Myths, Facts and Future Feats.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 17 May 2013. Web. 07 June 2013.

Gorman, Siobhan, Yochi J. Dreazen, and August Cole. “Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones.” Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 06 June 2013.

[18] The article titled “China’s Drones and New Aircraft on Display at Zhuhai Airshow” written by Barry Wyk was published in Danwei on November 13, 2012. The article can be accessed online and was last accessed on June 1, 2013.

According to The Guardian, Japan and China are escalating their drone race as tension increases over disputed islands. The article, written by Jonathan Kaiman and Justin McCurry, was published on August 1, 2013, and accessed on June 3, 2013.

[20] Levs, Josh. “CNN Explains: U.S. Drones.” CNN. Cable News Network, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 June 2013.

[21] “An Exclusive Look inside Israel’s Drones -Video.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 02 June 2013. Web. 07 June 2013.

[22] According to Tia Goldenberg’s article “Israel Leads Global Drone Exports as Demand Grows”, published on Yahoo! News, Israel is currently the leading country in terms of exporting drones. The article, published on June 5, 2013, highlights the increasing global demand for drones. The source of the information is Yahoo!, and the web access date is June 3, 2013.

[23] The Guardian reported on May 24, 2013 that Barack Obama stated in a video that drone strikes have saved lives. The article was accessed on June 4, 2013.

[24] Rehman, Fakhar, Waj S. Khan, and John Newland. “New Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Calls on US to Halt Drone Strikes.” NBC News. N.p., 05 June 2013. Web. 06 June 2013.

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