Drone U: The Emotional Consequences of Operating a Military Drone

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 14 2014 1:38 PM

Drone U: The Emotional Consequences of Operating a Military Drone

Every few weeks 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, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)

This week, Drone U features a podcast from Julie Carpenter, an expert in human-robot interaction at the University of Washington. Carpenter examines how working with drones emotionally impacts their operators in the military. 

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Carpenter says that drone operators often get to know the people they are going to kill even more intimately than soldiers who are actually living on the battlefield, and then they go home to their families at night, forcing them to compartmentalize their experiences. This can lead to Air Force pilots operating remotely having higher levels of combat stress than ground forces returning from Iraq. As robotic warfare becomes an ever more important part of how our nation conducts combat operations, we need to make sure to make that the human side of these operations is more deeply examined and understood.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Timothy Reuter is co-creator of Drone U and the founder of the D.C. Area Drone User Group. He also works on issues of international development.

Nabiha Syed is a media lawyer in New York and a visiting fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project.  She is the co-founder of DroneU.

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