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Thread: The Science Forum Drone Thread

  1. #1 The Science Forum Drone Thread 
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    I noticed you didn't have a drone thread. I think there's a lot of really interesting ramifications to drones, including future warfare, and the actual results so far, and the morals/ethics of their use, and of their use against US citizens, that it will be valuable to talk about here. This is a more European forum than I'm used to, and I think it will be an interesting conversation and we'll all learn interesting things.

    My position is, I think they're overall a Good Thing, but that they might lend themselves to abuse (and might already have been abused). Because firing requires a live human in the circuit, looking at the pictures, fixing the sights, and pulling the trigger, I am not intrinsically opposed to them. However, I definitely am opposed to robot death machines (sorry cosmictraveler). I find electric fences objectionable, but reasonable if properly posted; robot death-wielding guards is totally over the top. I might make an exception for, say, nuclear weapons, or for the servers of encryption services like Verisign. (It's easy enough to make a key, but keeping it secure, now that's another matter.)

    Now, for hunting people in the field, there is no exception: I want to know that if deadly force is used by my government it was at the direct command of an authorized agent or official of the US, who is responsible through the chain of command and, should there be mis- or malfeasance, will either bear witness or stand trial depending on their role. "Oops sorry" is not an acceptable answer.

    I find questions of whether the President can order a US citizen acting as a terrorist and traitor to the US and engaging in violent acts or conspiracy to commit them ridiculous. It's like asking if the President can order the HRT (the section of the FBI that rescues hostages) to shoot a man who raises a weapon during a kidnapping when the kidnappers have been tracked to their headquarters and the living hostages seen there. Of course he can; in such a situation the President has the authority to protect life by giving ROE that allow the HRT sniper to fire if he sees a weapon raised in anger or threat through his telescopic sight without further consultation. There is little or no difference between this and firing a Hellfire missile at the target. I don't care if it's inside or outside the US. The only case I'd find problematic is the use of any US military personnel or equipment inside the US without authorizing legislation and an extant state of emergency.

    I find it more questionable whether the President can order these same acts against persons who are not US citizens; however, if they are a member of a class that has been enumerated in the AUMF, I have to say I see no reason to give it any more credence than the case with a US citizen. One might as well declare that it is illegal to kill murderers who will not surrender and will not stop killing. Or, for that matter, any other public hazard like say rabid dogs. Our Posse Comitatus laws, in fact, restrict our military from acting inside our borders, which is more than some even very democratic countries do.

    In the future there will be extensive drone warfare. In fact, because an actual human pilot is so delicate and requires so much weight, any aircraft that can do without one is at a distinct advantage. I believe that actual human-carrying jet aircraft will become obsolete, except in environments where communications are interdicted. One scenario I foresee is a pair or small handful of human-carrying jets commanding squadrons of drones. Quite likely each aircraft will have both a pilot and a remote operator, who will command their drones; they may carry only minimal and self-defense oriented weaponry. It's likely they'll be restricted to line-of-sight communications with their drones. Lots of interesting fodder for tactical and strategic speculation there.

    In reality, it turns out that the exact orders that are given to the drone operators are very important, and in fact they reflect the attitudes of the previous and current holders of the office of US President. In Bush 43's day, they were supposed to get the terrorists. That was because Bush was more interested in posturing and looking tough than in actually using drones properly, as a surgical strike mechanism that is not just another euphemism but actually, most times, can get the right folks and only the right folks. The results of multiple surveys of drone data by multiple independent organizations have confirmed decisively that with properly constituted ROE, civilian casualties are virtually eliminated save through intelligence failures. And facial recognition is now being used to eliminate even these few mistakes.

    I will direct the attention of interested observers to Pakistan, where the drones have stopped being used and the Pakistani Air Force is dropping 1000-pound iron bombs in Waziristan and killing hundreds at a shot; they've wiped out entire villages getting one guy. That's what they think is better than drones. I hope the Waziris are happy they got what they asked for. All of them that live, anyway.

    There. Now we have a drone thread.


    Last edited by Schneibster; March 6th, 2014 at 08:17 PM.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    facial recognition is now being used to eliminate even these few mistakes.
    You mean that a person that is hiding in a home can be recognized? Or how about inside a moving vehicle? No drones aren't that good and many terrorists wear turbines and scarfs to hide their faces as well. Drones equipped with hell fire missiles which can blow the hell out of a few houses when it hits even if it hitting the right house. But as you say that is better than destroying a entire village. Drones have their uses for certain when used by knowledgeable, informed operators who are watched over at all times.


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    I don't know. When war becomes a video game (or is it when video games become war) we're losing some of our humanity. But I don't know that we have any choice. I just don't know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    You mean that a person that is hiding in a home can be recognized? Or how about inside a moving vehicle? No drones aren't that good
    That's nothing to do with the drone itself.

    and many terrorists wear turbines
    So they can get away more quickly?

    Drones equipped with hell fire missiles which can blow the hell out of a few houses when it hits even if it hitting the right house.
    Which is why there's a move to switch to Brimstone.
    AFAIK there are discussions underway about US acquisition 1 and the missile has a pre-selectable detonation mode for the warhead.
    It's capable 2 of "degrading" itself so that it can just punch a hole in a wall to get the person behind it - admittedly anyone behind that guy is also hit, but the house itself has "minimal damage" and adjacent buildings aren't touched.

    1 And there'd be few problems mounting/ using it. It is, after all, a Hellfire externally.
    2 When I say "capable" I mean that it's a proven capability, not an on-paper one. It has done exactly that - launched from a Harrier GR9 to kill a sniper - in Afghanistan. The newspaper report said "grapefruit-sized hole" in the wall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    facial recognition is now being used to eliminate even these few mistakes.
    You mean that a person that is hiding in a home can be recognized? Or how about inside a moving vehicle? No drones aren't that good and many terrorists wear turbines and scarfs to hide their faces as well.
    Well, that's what Obama's change of ROE has eliminated, actually. If they don't see the target they are not weapons free. Period. If there are civilians with the target they are not weapons free. Period.

    Remember also that modern technology extends to infrared sensors that can see through walls. In ten years even that will be obsolete; we'll be able to reconstruct views from around corners using the scattered photons that made it to our sensor. Nobody's using facial recognition software like you see in all the movies on pictures from a remote drone camera yet, though. That's still a bit in the future. Currently they're relying on the Mk I Eyeball and the Mk III Human Brain for that. It turns out facial recognition is a human skill and we can't make a computer good enough to beat it yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Drones equipped with hell fire missiles which can blow the hell out of a few houses when it hits even if it hitting the right house. But as you say that is better than destroying a entire village.
    Actually even with mud brick construction a Hellfire is only deadly within a room. It's not a shrapnel-based antipersonnel weapon. It was originally designed to kill the personnel inside a tank. Keep in mind it only has a 20-pound warhead, compared with the standard 500- and 1000-pound iron bombs, which have about 300 and 700 pounds of explosive, and which spread shrapnel as far as hundreds of yards, and blow down two to three such buildings at a shot.

    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Drones have their uses for certain when used by knowledgeable, informed operators who are watched over at all times.
    On this we agree 100%. I don't like letting the government kill people in the first place, but I reluctantly admit there are times when it's necessary. If someone thinks it is, I want a solid chain of command over that person; no secret CIA operators. And like I said no robot death machines.

    You think a lot like I do. These are all questions I investigated before I tried to formulate an opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    I don't know. When war becomes a video game (or is it when video games become war) we're losing some of our humanity. But I don't know that we have any choice. I just don't know.
    It might be a video game if it were your drones against theirs. But that's a long way in the future. As it is today, there's no difference between a fighter-bomber launching a guided bomb or missile, and turning control of it over to an AWACS or ground operator so s/he can turn off hir radar and remain stealthy; and a drone. We do that today and have been able to for a decade.

    Also, consider a sniper a mile away with a .50 Barrett rifle. It's a video game for hir, too.

    Like I said, I think the right line is "no robot death machines."

    I hear your nervousness, though, and I'm certainly not sanguine. I share some of your apprehension. They lend themselves to abuse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schneibster View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    I don't know. When war becomes a video game (or is it when video games become war) we're losing some of our humanity. But I don't know that we have any choice. I just don't know.
    It might be a video game if it were your drones against theirs. But that's a long way in the future. As it is today, there's no difference between a fighter-bomber launching a guided bomb or missile, and turning control of it over to an AWACS or ground operator so s/he can turn off hir radar and remain stealthy; and a drone. We do that today and have been able to for a decade.

    Also, consider a sniper a mile away with a .50 Barrett rifle. It's a video game for hir, too.

    Like I said, I think the right line is "no robot death machines."

    I hear your nervousness, though, and I'm certainly not sanguine. I share some of your apprehension. They lend themselves to abuse.
    I realize that raining death from afar has been around for a while. Yeah, I know that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    When I say "capable" I mean that it's a proven capability, not an on-paper one. It has done exactly that - launched from a Harrier GR9 to kill a sniper - in Afghanistan. The newspaper report said "grapefruit-sized hole" in the wall.
    Huh, I didn't know that. Thanks, and for the link.

    I have seen a lot of after-action pictures of standard Hellfire strikes and mostly it looked like it wouldn't kill anyone in an adjacent room, and I know it doesn't depend on shrapnel; it's a penetrator for killing tanks, not originally designed as an anti-personnel shrapnel warhead (which would be totally useless against a tank, of course). Do you have perhaps another link regarding damage assessments of standard Hellfire strikes? That would be something for my link library.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    I realize that raining death from afar has been around for a while. Yeah, I know that.
    But before it wasn't selective. And the terrorists used that to establish a whole new kind of combat: asymmetric warfare.

    Before we had no weapons to use against it but mass death, and so it was problematic to go after them. Now we can be selective and it's no longer a problem. This is how we will stop terrorism: with precision, and cheaply. Now it's no longer asymmetric.

    Speaking of raining death from afar, that is, after all, what terrorists do.
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    Fine. Have fun with your "drones are cool" thread. I won't get in your way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PumaMan View Post
    Fine. Have fun with your "drones are cool" thread. I won't get in your way.
    Actually, I tried very very hard to be respectful and I want to hear your views. I'm sorry that the subject makes you feel like that and wish I could do something to help.

    I don't think any method of killing people is "cool." I hate the fact that it must be done. But if it must be, I insist it be dispassionate, without individual malice but for reasons of justice or defense of life and liberty, painless, quick, and professional. I am not at all happy with any human controlled entity having the power of life and death, but if it must be I insist it be done correctly.

    And there is no point in shying from necessity; it will only create more innocent suffering. Ignoring the bank robbers and hoping they go away won't help.
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