#3. It Forces You to Predict the Future
Veronique de Viguerie / Getty
I mentioned lag earlier -- this is one of the technical reasons drone warfare is the worst video game you'll ever play. There's typically a two- to six-second delay for any action. This means we don't see Joe Insurgent's left turn down that road until long after he's made it. Ever tried to play through a major lag spike in World of Warcraft or Call of Duty? By the time things clear up, you're usually face-deep in testicles or well on your way to wiping the raid.
In a shocking oversight, the Geneva Conventions say nothing about teabagging.
But when you're controlling a drone, paying for everyone's repair fees isn't an option, and your 12-year-old-like swearing vocabulary isn't going to get you points with anyone's mom. You have to get good enough at reading people to guess their movements. And you have to do this via a shitty camera several hundred feet above that person.
There was one time we were following a vehicle in downtown Baghdad. Bad weather messed with the satellite and made us go "lost link." The video screen froze, the telemetry froze. The entire computer system just locked up, and we didn't know if it was on their end or our end or somewhere in between. Our airborne missile-humping Terminator circled harmlessly in the sky above the target, drifting on thermals like a stoned metal eagle.
U.S. Air Force / Getty
"It's medicinal, yo. My sensor has glaucoma."
Ten minutes later, the link came back. We managed to find the vehicle again, but the people inside it were gone. So we had to just sit there and watch the vehicle until they came back. We were there for hours, until my shift ended and the next group of guys got to sit in my uncomfortably warm chair and wait for our target to get back.
Two teams of trained soldiers spent hours staring at a parked car, not fighting the war on terror, all thanks to lag. Welcome to the yawning face of modern warfare.
Christian Science Monitor / Getty
You'd get more excitement out of a double shift at your local library.
#2. It Turns You into a Voyeur
AFP / Getty
Operating a drone is the ultimate voyeuristic experience. You are an incredible peeping tom. We've actually watched people have sex. It took us a while to figure out what was going on. The heat signature kept getting warmer, and these two people kept moving closer together, and finally one of our guys said, "I think someone's having sex."
And we were all like, "Noooooo ..."
Veronique de Viguerie / Getty
"If I enjoy this, does it count as fraternizing with the enemy?"
Don't start judging us until you've spent a few hundred hours hovering over an Afghan village. It's impossible to not notice people living their lives. That terrorist you're watching is also a dad. He Andy Griffiths his son through important life moments and bangs his wife as often as you'd expect from someone without access to Netflix.
It's one of the things that really bother me about drones being used by law enforcement. There's almost nothing you can't see when your flying robot has heat vision. No department will set out to record people having sex from their backyards or through open windows, but a few lucky drone cops are going to see that stuff, and one of them will be dumb enough to post it on YouTube.
Max Nash / AFP / Getty
"Hey, guys, over in this backyard: nipples!"
And while the final death of privacy is scary and all, there's an upside to the drone surveillance state: Big Brother will have to watch us poop. There's a video that was openly shared between drone squadrons of a local with diarrhea taking a shit. Imagine the after effects of a Taco Bell binge, but in INFRARED. This guy just squats in a field, bends over, and it was like a machine gun. Or a fully automatic shotgun. Use your imagination.
Science and Society Picture Library / Getty
We've included an infrared image of the Gulf Stream, in case it's helpful.
So if you want a picture of the future, imagine a man shitting his guts out into a ditch while miles away a cop sits in a farty old chair and watches. Forever.
#1. The Guys in Charge Don't Really Understand Drones
AFP / Stringer / Getty
Drones are some of the highest-tech instruments of war ever designed. In fact, they're TOO high-tech for the brass to understand very well. They accept that new technology is inevitable, but they'll be damned if they're going to learn how it works. Think about when your grandparents finally caved and signed up for AOL. That's how well our officers understand drones.
Ethan Miller / Getty
"No, sir, I'm afraid it can't 'do some wicked Batman shit.'"
Did you know that drones can't really function in bad weather? Anything greater than a light breeze pretty much makes it impossible to fly or launch. Don't feel bad if you didn't know -- our bosses didn't either. They'd send us up during a storm and ignore all our experienced explanations as to why that was rock-fucking stupid. "Don't tell me why you can't do it, tell me how you're GOING to do it" they would say. And we'd end up circling in the sky for 12 hours until we ran out of fuel.
It's stupid, flying in weather. It's the stupidest thing I've ever seen anyone try to do. These are not tough, maneuverable helicopters. They are kites with missiles attached.
U.S. Navy / Getty
"Oh shit, seagulls! Pull it back."
But our officers just knew it had a camera and missiles and stayed in the air a long time. They didn't care about anything else. And that ignorance ended up costing the taxpayers millions. Like, "fund a large school district" millions. When I was in Iraq, some genius decided the right place to store our fuel was in steel barrels, exposed to the sun. The fuel went bad, and seven aircraft crashed as a result.
Fares Dlimi / AFP / Getty
And we'd just painted the damn things.
And this won't get solved soon -- drone pilots are very scarce, and they're also unlikely to be promoted. So we're years away from seeing any overlap on the Venn diagram for "people who understand drones" and "people who command them." But really, what could possibly go wrong?
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