The development and deployment of any new form of weaponry requires us to evaluate if this advancement is beneficial or harmful to humanity. We must make sure that this new weaponry fits into the code of ethics and values to which we subscribe. The creation of armed Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) has caused concern among some. They believe that this advancement, if left to its own devices, is detrimental to humanity. These concerns have prompted various approaches, which attempt to eliminate or reduce the concerns associated with armed UAVs. Noel Sharkey, author of the article “Death Strikes from the Sky: The Calculus of Proportionality”, and Robert Sparrow, author of the article “Predators or Plowshares? Arms Control of Robotic Weapons” both offer their own concerns and solutions relating to armed UAVs. They share some common concerns, but their main concerns about UAVs are different, and likewise, their methods of resolving these issues are different.
Sharkey and Sparrow both agree that the number of UAVs and the number UAV missions will increase in the future. One rationale behind this increase comes from how successful UAV missions have been in the past. Sharkey starts by showing how useful UAVs have been during missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. This success has prompted an increase in the production of UAVs, as well as an increase in funding to train more operators. He further states the success of UAVs by stating, “UAVs are the most requested resource from ground forces”. Sparrow offers additional reasons why the use of UAVs will become more prevalent. He worries that the benefits of UAVs are so great, that we will underestimate the pitfalls of their use. One benefit mentioned by Sparrow is how UAVs reduce the risks of soldiers. Producing more UAVs means that more soldiers can operate from a safe distance. Sparrow also argues that the higher level of surveillance made possible by UAVs will serve as more pressure toward increased production and deployment.
These two men differ when it comes to why these increases are a problem. The main concern of Sharkey deals with decapitation attacks, which are targeted attacks made against high-value enemies, usually a leader-figure of an enemy organization. Many of Sharkey’s arguments are made against decapitation attacks in general, but he shows that UAVs increase the urgency of his concerns. He points out that one function of UAVs is the capability to carry out decapitation attacks, the first such attack being in Yemen during 2002. His specific concern with UAVs is that the reduced risk they offer will increase the number of decapitation attacks carried out by the military. For each mission, you weigh the risks versus the rewards. Many times, a mission might fail approval because the risk of losing a soldier is not worth the intended outcome of the mission. Sharkey argues that more decapitation attacks will be approved, because the risk of losing an allied soldier is removed from the equation.