With all of the conflicts going on around the world, the U.S. is finding itself spread very thin among its enemies. Russia is on Ukrainian soil, ISIL is in Syria and Iraq, and Somalia is still brewing, many years after the US Blackhawk incident. We have seen the use of distance technology in war, from its implementation in robotic surgery to the use of unmanned robots to disarm IEDs. But with so many foes taking aim at U.S. interests, the technology known as the UAV or "drone" needs to be at the forefront of today's warfare, the same way that robotics build our cars and sort our mail today.
A country can only send so many human soldiers into a conflict. Soldiers used to be the first line of defense for many societies, simply because human beings predated machines. As technology began to find its way into war, we saw the emergence of the tank as a means of protecting men during battle. Technology also reinvented the design of the rifle many times over, into the battle rifles we see in war now.
Advances in wireless technology meant that we could see targets on the ground using cameras, find targets in the air using radar, and communicate with troops using 2-way radio. But all of this tech was designed around the soldier, who ultimately had to take all of this cool gadgetry into battle with him. Human lives were still at stake.
And then came the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, what we know as the drone.
Drones were the culmination of radio controlled airplanes combined with tiny, wireless on-board CCD cameras. This technology was first used by RC enthusiasts who wanted the ability to feel like they were in their RC airplanes as they were flying them. The age of virtual reality had found its legs. Soon, we were putting these little cameras on police officers to monitor their activities, and mounting them in teddy bears to watch the babysitter who was caring for our kids.
Drones became a big deal once DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense's "R&D group" realized that you could replace soldiers with a flying vehicle that could go anywhere to see things, and also carry weapons in order to attack any target. If the drone got shot down, you just sent up another one to replace it -- no human beings killed or injured.
Drones are the natural progression of technology in war. They save lives, and make "safe battle" more of a reality.
The obvious downside to the technology is that it can be used on anyone, foreign or domestic. The same strengths that make drones so beneficial can also be used for nefarious reasons. Like it or not, any weapon can be used for good or for evil.
I had the opportunity to work on various DARPA related robotic weapon projects, and I was amazed at the amount of upcoming technology that the U.S. military has in store for future wars and conflicts. I can envision seeing the use of these technologies as the U.S. finds itself running out of combat options that don't include human soldiers. Technology needs to be leveraged not just as a means of convenience, but also as a solution to saving human lives.
Because if we can rely on robots to sort mail and build cars, we should be leveraging them to help save the lives of our soldiers too...