Drones: Made in America, Sold to Militaries Everywhere

We’ve known for a while that drones are becoming ubiquitous, sadly, two years before the FAA will have any rules. Already, the military is using drones to terrorize Yemeni villagers and police officers to spy. But with the recent Silicon Valley interest and boom in drones comes worrying questions.

The U.S. drone program has always been a bit shady. We know, for instance that the U.S. gained access to Pakistani airspace by covertly assassinating the Pakistan government’s enemies of state. Luckily for the U.S. government, Americans have a stunning ability to not care about anyone who does not share their nationality and/or race, and therefore the government’s drone actions have gone uncontested.

Now corporations are getting into the mix, with large funding from Silicon Valley. As I’ve noted before, drones certainly have legitimate uses. However, there is the potential that weaponized drones will be shipped overseas. NBC reports that the Pentagon has approved 66 nations as eligible to purchase U.S. drones. More worrying is the possibility that private corporations will secretly (or openly) sell their wares to foreign governments to be used for repression, or even attacks against the U.S. (hardly an unprecedented move).

The industrial half of the military-industrial complex are eager to start exporting weapons. Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries said, “I don’t see the domestic market as being such a boom, our bread and butter is still going to be overseas foreign military sales.”

I urge you to read that twice.

Some are raising concerns about exporting UAV technology. Daryl Kimball, executive director the Arms Control Association warned, "The proliferation of this technology will mark a major shift in the way wars are waged. We're talking about very sophisticated war machines here. We need to be very careful about who gets this technology. It could come back to hurt us." Dianne Feinstein has also raised concerns, telling the Wall Street Journal that “there are some military technologies that I believe should not be shared with other countries, regardless of how close our partnership.”

We must certainly be careful about who gains control of the drones. In February General Atomics sold a predator drone to the United Arab Emirates. This marks the first time U.S. drones have been sold to a non-NATO country. More such sales are likely to come, especially in the developing world. It would be nice if the drones were used only to water crops, but I’m unaware of any predator drone farmer helper kits. Arms can easily change hands and allies can become enemies.

Remember the Mujahideen in Afghanistan?

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Sean McElwee

Sean McElwee is a Research Associate at Demos.

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