With such bumper-stickerable slogans as “Drones don’t bomb people, Distinguished Warfare Medal winners bomb people” and “Number of US Boots in Yemen: Zero”, the NDA hopes to change the way Americans think about drones. Despite the group’s name, even the term ‘drone’ is avoided in favor of more neutral terms such as UAV or ‘personless craft’.
NDA spokesman Ronald Kirkpatrick sees the group’s role as a defensive one. “Personless craft have taken a real pummeling in the media, and unfairly so. With the successes of other advocacy watchdogs combating draconian regulatory measures in Washington, we feel that somebody ought to step into this tech’s corner of the ring.”
The Obama administration has been receiving considerable bipartisan flak over its reticence to share a series of memos regarding the use and legal justification of armed drones. The federal government has also run into problems domestically, with citizens groups across North Dakota and Montana threatening armed resistance against UAVs flying in their airspace.
The new technology isn’t all spies and missiles, though. “The civilian and commercial potential of UAVs is being realized more and more now”, says Institute of Engineering and Technology’s Tony Dodd in a recent interview. “The market is potentially worth billions.”
Dozens of civilian applications for drones are being developed, from remotely inspecting offshore oil derricks, crop dusting, and even mapping the Brazilian rainforest for conservation purposes. Researchers at Britain’s Southampton University have even begun experimenting with models built entirely out of 3D-printed nylon parts.
The NDA hopes that by focusing on the beneficial nature of unmanned craft, it can lessen public outcry over the 4700 people estimated killed by them since the program’s inception. “Some lefties claim fifty civilians die for every terrorist killed by personless military craft. But think of how many trees have been saved or malls planned thanks to these little wonders,” Kirkpatrick explains. “There must be at least 1300 Corozo palms inventoried for every Pakistani whose life has been misappropriated. I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio.”