Wayward drones

Risks attached to the military use of drones escalate by the day


Editorial December 09, 2017

Drones, military and civilian, have quickly permeated our lives. News channels were swift to embrace them for their capacity to report live from positions of relative safety on stories that would have been difficult to cover from ground level. Currently they are providing a dramatic view of the wildfires sweeping California. No wedding in Pakistan is complete today without drone-cam footage later to be incorporated into the nuptial DVD. Amazon and others are far advanced with bringing drones into the package delivery options. Unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being trialled as taxis in one of the Gulf States. Military use of unmanned aerial vehicles has a long history, but the full potential of such craft has only begun to be realised in the last 20 years, and the future of warfare may well be determined by them.

The first known American drone strike in Pakistan was on 18th June 2004. There have been hundreds since. They are widely used in the conflict in Afghanistan, and India, China, Pakistan and the Americans use them daily for border patrol and pre-emptive strikes. Their very ubiquity makes mistakes ever more likely to happen and given the sensitivities of borders regionally ever more likely to have potentially dire consequences.

It is being reported that a UAV originating in India has crashed on the Chinese side of the border, and the Chinese are claiming that it was a violation of their sovereignty and airspace. India claims that it was on a training mission and that there was a technical malfunction. At another level and across the border in Pakistan it is being suggested that American drones in our airspace may in future be shot down — “they will not return if detected” being the reported comment. Were that ever to be the case it would be a significant racking up of the tensions between Pakistan and the US. Pakistan has had the capacity to bring down American drones from the outset and never exercised it. The risks attached to the military use of drones escalate by the day, and today’s technical malfunction could be the midwife to tomorrows conflict.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2017.

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COMMENTS (2)

PrakashG | 3 years ago | Reply The surveillance drones will do exactly opposite of what you are suggesting - they will actually reduce the chances of a mistake escalating into a conflict by providing better data and thus removing the possibility of any misunderstanding.
thoughts | 3 years ago | Reply Maybe ET should write an editorial about Pakistan’s wayward proxies! LOL!
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