Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have been in the news a lot because of their use in recent wars. But just because a technology has been used for violent purposes, does that mean that the technology is in itself unethical?
A UAV is simply an aircraft that doesn't need a human pilot on board. Instead a pilot flies the plane via remote control from far away, even on the other side of the world. UAVs are used either to carry something (weapons in military use) or to gather information as eyes in the sky. They tend to be used in cases where some combination of these reasons are true:
- It would be too dangerous for a pilot to be physically present
- Surveillance is needed for longer than any pilot can fly
- It is cheaper to gather information this way.
While initially developed as weapons, more and more uses are being found for UAVs in non-military contexts. Some are controversial, others just plain useful.
The issue for drones boils down to a simple question - do UAVs allow their operators to act unethically in a way that they wouldn't do if they were actually in the aircraft?