Every week on Future Tense, we highlight a talk from Drone U in which a leading thinker speaks about what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.)
This week, Drone U features a podcast from Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in the United Kingdom, where he focuses on security issues in the Middle East. Stein looks at “emerging drone states” and how they will affect American interests in areas of strategic importance.
Stein points out that using military drones on a global scale is remarkably resource-intensive—apparently, even the Pentagon has to purchase bandwidth from commercial vendors to operate its drones. This “bandwidth bottleneck” means that emerging drone states like China and Russia will be more inclined to use drones in local and regional affairs, creating a “low-risk means of coercion” in these areas. Stein makes the case for clear policies that will prevent unintentional escalation. As he puts it, the “United States should begin preparing for a world in which it does not have a monopoly on drone technology.” Given the current tussle over the leadership of the U.S. drone program, stay tuned to see how that might happen.