Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are unmanned aircraft that are either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or that fly autonomously, following a pre-programmed mission. The ‘drone’ nickname comes from the constant buzzing noise that some drones make in flight. There are many different types of military drones, but they fall into two main categories: those that are used for reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence purposes (ISTAR in the military jargon)3, and those that are also armed and can be used to launch missiles and bombs. Armed Predator and Reaper drones deployed in Afghanistan by the US and UK are launched from Kandahar airbase and controlled by operators in the Nevada desert some 7,500 miles away. Initially, ground support troops launch the drones. Once they are airborne control is handed over to a crew of three operators, sitting in front of computer screens in specially designed trailers. One person ‘flies’ the drone, another controls and monitors the cameras and sensors which stream images back to the operator’s screens in real time via satellite,4 while a third person is in contact with the “customers”, ground troops and commanders in the war zone. At the touch of a joystick button the operator can fire missiles or drop bombs on targets showing on a computer screen...
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