A friend has just drawn my attention to an incredible comment piece published in the respected aviation journal, Flight International at the end of August. Entitled ‘Oh what a lovely war’ the unattributed article is clearly written by someone who is working on the development of drones on a daily basis (no doubt explaining the anonymity).
The article hails the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as being “the making of the unmanned aircraft industry” and expresses grave concern that “the prospect of peace poses serious danger” to the industry. Indeed the author suggests an armistice now, like the armistices of the past would be “a downfall” and “a curse”.
The anonymous drone industry insider goes on to praise the trend of “increasing the level of vehicle autonomy and demoting the human from a ground-based pilot to multi-aircraft supervisor” as well as suggesting that civil airspace restrictions on drones due to public safety “will smother any chance of growth for UAVs if the comparative freedom of Afghanistan ceases to be available.” (Honestly I am not making this up!). The article finishes with a plea that the drone industry “must persuade military decision makers to trust autonomous technology to make decisions at least on par with the quality of humans in similar situations.” Oh, and, ahem, the industry must also “cut down on accident rates” (I promise I’m not making this up!)
I believe that this anonymous comment piece lets the PR mask of the drone industry (indeed the arms industry) slip and shows what people behind the growth of Drone Wars are really thinking: Firstly, that war is good for business, peace a curse. Secondly, despite the protestations of the politicians and senior military officials, the push towards greater autonomy for drones and armed robotic systems is real and being led by industry. And finally, despite drones regularly going ‘rogue’ and crashing, the holy grail for the drone industry is to be allowed to fly drones in civil airspace alongside manned aircraft.