Wednesday, 01 October 2014
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Last week's poll: Drone warfare ethics

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones) in warfare is now an established fact for many nations. Which option is closest to your feelings on this?

Our readers seem to have no ethical qualms about the use of drones in warfare. The largest group of our 603 respondents, 40 per cent, said that there were no ethical issues with current drone technology; 37 per cent thought it acceptable to use UAVs for reconnaisance and observation. Only 6 per cent thought drone use was never acceptable, while 7 per cent thought they caused too much collateral damage and 1 per cent thought they missed the target too often; 9 per cent declined to pick an option.


Please let us know your opinion on these results.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Believe drones with smart projectiles of greatly varied power can surgically complete missions. Compared with manned aircraft with immediate actions w/o as much oversight as 'drone control central' has as much chance of 'too much collateral damage' of targets using schools and hospital as shields.

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  • "All is fair in love and war"

    If the enemy fight with suicide bombers at home and IEDs in the field, then we have a moral duty to our armed forces not to send them into battle with their arms tied but to give them all possible means to fight on our behalf.

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  • The Engineer should stay away from politics and stick with the task of engineering.
    The editorial staff have stepped beyond there remit with this survey, this is very worrying.

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  • Which part of our remit have we overstepped? Do you think that engineers should never consider the ethical implications of their work? That's very worrying.

  • Using drones incurs a special responsibility to ensure that the drone accomplishes the objective exactly with no residues.

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  • There are no ethical issues with using current drone technology if both sides are in a no-holds-barred fight.
    If they want rules, agree on them, Geneva convention style, under which they probably operate.

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  • Your poll seems to have missed the point causing collateral ethical confusion. Ethics are bound up with the nature of the conflict as well as the methods adopted. If the conflict is 'justified' the pursuit of its aims will be best met by minimising loss of life on all sides. In this case yes - use drones and don't miss the target. If there is no 'just cause', using any weapon is wrong.

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  • This argument is nearly as old as warfare. People argued about the ethics of the longbow in the middle ages and submarines 100 years ago. One thing that does concern me is that drones are predominantly used by rich countries against poorer ones. Any foe with a reasonable air defence would soon render the sky a very hostile place for drones. But the status quo will not last - I imagine that engineers in these countries that are being preyed upon by drones are working flat out on ways of bringing them down or perhaps even hijacking their controls. And while drone operators thousands of miles away from their targets may feel safe, the perceived powerlessness of their targets will only serve to swell the ranks of terrorists.

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  • War and any armed conflict guarantees collateral damage on the civilian population. We,civilians, become a part of the conflict.
    The questions regarding drones are not any different than aircraft bombing and 'smart' missle strikes . Collateral damage is a byproduct of war, sadly.

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  • Ethics really have nothing to do with the argument, it is almost completely financially founded. Drones are cheaper than fast jets, they use the same, or at least very similar targetting technology (nor do they risk the lives of aircrew) so why do we think collateral damage is any higher than with conventional aircraft?

    IMO the question of collateral damage is irrelevant and whipped up by the do-good brigade because they can convey the perception of armchair warfare. If there were no drones, the strikes would still happen but by conventional means and the casualties would be just as high.

    I hate the thought of innocent people being killed in the pursuit of terrorists however this is the nature of modern warfare. Are the Taliban and the rest of the fanatics criticised by their 'public', damn right they are, but they take no notice and kill and torture indiscriminately.

    The price of freedom is high, tragically the terrorists victims won't stand up and be counted, but they are quite happy to accept everything civilisation provides them, including the freedom and democracy they are all crying out for.

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  • if the drone doesn't do the "job" then you have to send a pilot in and risk his/her life.war is a terrible thing but whose life are you going to put at risk your own people or your enemies?

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