RE: [sc] Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

RE: [sc] Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

From: Mick Warren <mick_at_xxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2011 20:06:13 +0200
Message-ID: <3EDFF4A96AE22246A5CF0A530ABA5C270C66FBB359@xxxxxx>
I feel, yet again, that it is necessary to take a slightly different, if more informed, view. 

Peter, to respond to your points raised:

First: Agreed - raison d'etre!

Second:  Not so - the rules of engagement still stand irrespective of the means used to prosecute them although the sentiment is agreed.

Third: Nope.  You are confusing "time-on-target" (10 minutes overflight) and situational awareness which is gained irrespective of location as it is all via radio/sitcom/imagery can be gained in-theatre with the correct comms links - which are better than external links.  After all Military bandwidth is at a premium compared to terrestrial bandwidth.  Arguably, situational awareness is much better when in-theatre seeing the events or consequences of your actions rather than being in the US and going home to Apple Pie and Mom

Fourth:  No weapons are released without either prior authorisation (rules of engagement) or legal sanction.  Using a 'computer simulation' may be fine in Grand Theft Auto but the simulation environment you suggest is just that.

Fifth:  Absolutely agreed!

Alas it seems that civilians think that surgical strikes are both the norm and the only way forward.  Whilst this sentiment is listened to and is a valid nirvana alas it is but that......................

-----Original Message-----
From: safety-critical-request@xxxxxx [mailto:safety-critical-request@xxxxxx] On Behalf Of Peter Bernard Ladkin
Sent: 25 April 2011 08:44
To: Safecrit List
Subject: [sc] Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

There are a lot of issues with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). We haven't discussed them much here.

Today, the Washington Post has an eye-opening article on the use of attack "drones", unmanned armed aerial vehicles, in warfare. The article is based on a British MoD report apparently obtained by The Guardian recently (I haven't looked it up):

There are a number of points made. First, since operators are physically detached from the scene of warfare, there is reduced danger of loss of life to one's own side, and commanders are morally obligated to so reduce, so there is a moral reason for using them. Second, for the same reason, decisions to use them may be made more readily, so increase the chances of deciding on a deadly firefight. Third, a drone operator is often in close contact with someone on the ground at a firefight, sometimes for hours, so has a much more developed situational awareness than a human pilot, who turns up for ten minutes on station, drops a munition and leaves. Fourth, the devastation produced by firing a specific missile at a specific target is assessed by a decision team beforehand, using computer prediction tools. This step, this facility, is entirely missing from the human-attack-aircraft scenario. Fifth, the decision and support team for a UAV attack flight is about 180 strong, an order of magnitude larger than that for a human-flown attack aircraft. The indirect inference is that "better" decisions are made, but of course this does not necessarily follow!

Chris Johnson had a paper at last year's SAFECOMP on UAVs in civil airspace. He pointed out that there is a strong political push to use them; that NATS and DLS want to fly them; and that the safety technology is far from mature and the procedures not well developed.


Peter Bernard Ladkin, Professor of Computer Networks and Distributed Systems, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany
Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319
Received on Mon 25 Apr 2011 - 19:06:59 BST