The idea of utilizing unmanned lethal technology in warfare has been heavily debated for a number of reasons. As the newest way of fighting, drone warfare currently has little legal restrictions that dictate what a government can or cannot order their soldiers to do (Thompson). One of the most prominent debates revolves around the psychological effects drone warfare has.
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Drone warfare not only has a negative psychological effect on the drone pilots, it also holds a psychological impact on the everyday citizen who becomes witness to these drones (Owen). In order to determine the ethics of drone warfare, governments must also consider the psychological damages that this new technology can bring. If governments wish to incorporate drone warfare, they should also implement ways to control the psychological impacts this technology holds.
Despite drone warfare being considered new technology, many researchers have already conducted studies in regards to the psychological impacts. First of all, even the support personnel of the drone pilots, who do not kill the people they see on their screens, are psychologically affected by drone warfare (Otto). In theory, this should be a relatively easy task. They would not suffer from killing someone and they are still providing valuable information for the military. However, what should happen in theory does not. Though they are not killing anyone, these support personnel are forced to watch some of the most terrible things that can be done to another human being (Otto). In a survey conducted by the Air Force, they found that almost one in five of every drone operator has been witness to a rape in this year alone (Otto). For some, they have witnessed more than 100 different cases of a person being raped or killed (Otto). These factors lead to these support personnel having a greater chance of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (Thompson). In comparison to the 2.1% of non-intelligence support personnel who get PTSD, 2.5% of intelligence support personnel are clinically diagnosed with PTSD (Thompson). Despite this happening, the drone operators have no choice but to continue watching what is happening (Otto). As their job, it is their duty to keep watching as they continue to watch out for threats (Otto).
Next, drone warfare has lead to built up stress in the pilots. Despite working in the safety of a building, these pilots experience the same amount of stress that a regular soldier would. With only what they see on the screen as their guide, these pilots must determine whether they are attacking a group of terrorists or a group of innocents. After doing so, they are expected to return home unaffected by their previous actions. When the Air Force conducted the PCL-M, the military’s test and evaluation for PTSD, they found that 1.6% of RPA operators experience a form of PTSD that could be considered an existential conflict (Chappelle).
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