Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

By Wreford Momanyi.

The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, is one of man's greatest step in technology and towards security. Drones were initially taken to be just toys and used for surveillance. But now, they have evolved to aerial soldiers. But, can we trust technology with our lives?

The application of UAVs have been on the rise in military operations. UAVs will soon overtake foot-soldiers and make the military a career for only engineers and technology enthusiasts. Currently UAVs are fitted with sensors (e.g. missile sensors), camera -to spy, geographical positioning system (GPS) and an elaborate communication system, so that they can share intelligence information among themselves and with the base (control/command center). Ammunition could also be fitted. With this rate of innovation, sooner or later, UAVs will be as small as birds or insects and will be fitted with biometrics and they will be able to trace and kill the 'MOST WANTED' amidst crowds without being suspected. And very soon drones shall be able to analyze, plan, react and make decisions without man's intervention: intelligent soldiers.

Developed nations are investing more in drones. For instance the US budget for drones in 2006 was $ 1.9 b, in 2011 it increased to $ 5.1 b and there are speculations of further increase in the budget allocation, as the superpower country prepares to launch a more precise (with little collateral damage) UAV known as the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munitions System (LMAMS) by 2016. This can kill within a radius of 6 miles in less than one hour. All countries will soon be acquiring this for peace keeping missions and to curb terror and insecurity which are on the rise. As the size of drones drastically reduces, cost reduces and its effectiveness increases. Developing countries ought to invest more into the use of UAVs in curbing the security challenges facing Africa. Key among them being;
hostage situations within the country and militia groups e.g. Al-Shabaab and Boko haram. Small UAVs could be employed to gather more intelligence about the militia and high precision UAVs used in hostage situations to carry out facial recognition and identify the culprits, then gun them down. This will greatly reduce mortality and cost of operation. There is high need to further explore the application of drones. But amid robot or computer, man becomes the weakest link. As drones strive to get to the desired precision (which is not yet 100%) and efficiency more innocent people continue to die in the course of these operations.

Innocent lives lost even outnumber the target culprits. These shocking numbers validate the frequent cries of human rights organizations . According to a UN survey: civilians have been killed in 33 separate drone attacks around the world. In Pakistan, an estimated 2200 to 3300 people have been killed by drones since 2004, 400 of whom are civilian. Experts warn that more sophisticated drones pose future threat. Therefore, there is need to control this technological advancement.