A Brief History of Drones, by John Sifton

Here is an article published in Feb 2012, just over a year ago. It makes for good reading.


It was ten years ago this month, on February 4, 2002, that the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing. The strike was in Paktia province in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost. The intended target was Osama bin Laden, or at least someone in the CIA had thought so. Donald Rumsfeld later explained, using the passive voice of government: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.” The incident occurred during a brief period when the military, which assisted the CIA’s drone program by providing active service personnel as operators, still acknowledged the program’s existence. Within days of the strike, journalists on the ground were collecting accounts from local Afghans that the dead men were civilians gathering scrap metal. The Pentagon media pool began asking questions, and so the long decade of the drone began.

But the whole identity of the dr0ne, in today’s conciousness, is that of a high-tech remotely piloted plane designed to kill people in far away places. In reality, anything that flies without a pilot, and accomplishes a kill mission is a military ( and soon to be, law enforcement) drone. Buzz-bombs, V-2 rockets, Anvil craft, cruise missiles… the ideas and tech of the last 100 years has merged together in the minds of the engineers. From there, it is simply a matter of developing missions and requesting new features.

The DRONE is today what gunpowder was at its genesis. It is the multi-generational leap forward of killing technology, philosophy and application. Its utility  hasn’t even begun to be realized, which means the stories about how and where “it” will be used have just begun. This powerful machine is making its way into law enforcement hands, and it will eventually be used in kill missions. Remember this: no technology accepted by civilian authorities from military sources remains limited to its initial role, regardless of promises made.

Use your imagination. Use it well. Try not to be surprised when your thoughts become reality….


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