Do-Gooder Drones

TORONTO – A foreign policy revolution is coming, to be led not by a charismatic leader, but by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones. The military use of drones, particularly by the United States to kill suspected enemy combatants in Pakistan, has fueled considerable debate. But the discussion misses a crucial point: drones can be used for good.

More than weapons of warfare, drones have the potential to serve humanitarian causes. Through surveillance and data collection, unarmed drones could benefit human-rights campaigns, development assistance programs, and scientific research.

Technology has far surpassed the verification and reporting methods employed by humanitarian organizations. Micro-drones could assist in aid deployments by locating remote villages or ensuring that money and resources reach their destinations, while allowing donors to watch the campaigns unfold in real time. This would not only improve monitoring and reporting, but would also mollify critics who question whether aid actually reaches the people for whom it is intended.

Moreover, during natural disasters, helicopters are typically used to scan ravaged areas in search of survivors. A medium-size drone guided by advanced GPS technology could do the same job far more accurately and, as a result, save more lives.