March 11, 2013 | Quote
10 Things to Know About Drones
Drones received nearly 13 hours of attention on the Senate floor Wednesday: the tools were the center of a filibuster delaying confirmation of CIA Director nominee John Brennan, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) demanded answers about drones that target U.S. citizens on American soil. Here are 10 things to know about drones:
1. There is a congressional drones caucus: Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) chair the Unmanned Systems Caucus, which aims “to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.”
3. The first known use of a drone to gather information about a U.S. citizen leading to arrest occurred in 2011, according to news reports: a Predator drone was enlisted to help in a North Dakota case that began when a sheriff went in search of six missing cows, and encountered gunmen. The drone was used to locate the suspects and find that they were unarmed, leading to the arrest of three U.S. citizens, the Los Angeles Time reported.
4. Leading drone-making companies that donated to border state members of the “drones caucus” between 2010 and 2012 include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and General Dynamics, according to a 2012 report from San Diego’s public radio station.
5. Operating drones is a tough job — about half of people who operate drone aircraft reported “high operational stress” from the job, a 2011 Air Force survey found.
6. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” sometimes known as drones, “may have a wingspan as large as a Boeing 737 or smaller than a radio-controlled model airplane.”
7. Drones aren’t just for spying and striking —according to an August 2012 article from Popsci.com, smaller unmanned aircraft devices have been used for purposes including “tracking animals for wildlife agencies, guiding ice breakers in the Arctic, monitoring for airborne radiation in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”
9. Covert U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan, which often occur with drones, began in 2004 as part of an effort to target Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, according to analysis compiled by the Long War Journal. The Journal has counted nine airstrikes there in 2013; there were 117 in 2010, following a 2008 intensification of the process. Of the 334 strikes the Journal’s data records, 324 have occurred since President Barack Obama took office.
10. Israel is the world’s largest exporter of drones, according to an October CNN report.