Life Under Drones

CC villehooIn the U.S., debates over the wisdom of commercial UAS integration into our national airspace tend to be conducted in hypotheticals. We’ve all read op/eds that postulate how the mainstream use of this technology will change our lives in the future, as if there is a lack of information about human-drone interaction over time. On the contrary: in at least two places on Earth, armed American UAVs have been a persistent presence for close to a decade. Stories from these communities may hold important, scalable lessons about how people understand and adapt to life with unmanned systems. Existing ethnographic data on the social and psychological effects of ongoing military UAS presence overseas may offer unique insights into how we can plan for the sustainable integration of non-military systems here at home.

BBC national security journalist Tara McKelvey will moderate our three panelists as they explore what their research can teach us about the developing human – drone relationship in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, where UAS have been a consistent presence for around ten years. The panel will cover the basic facts of armed UAS deployment, and identify the vehicles and applications commonly used in these areas. The panelists will share stories they have collected, and explain what they have learned in their field work. We’ll discuss how military UAS applications have shaped our common understanding of the technology as a whole. We’ll learn how locals overseas understand and interact with these machines in their daily lives, and we’ll consider whether people here at home might have similar experiences living under civilian UAVs. How do people on the ground adjust their lives to account for drone presence? Could commercial, non-military UAS businesses develop in these regions in the future, or is it impossible for active military and active civilian UAS to coexist in the same airspace? If the military conflict subsided, would the public accept the technology in a new context?