The Tedium Of Remote-Control War

Elijah Solomon Hurwitz talks with drone pilots about the monotony of their work:

Though strikes on suspected terrorists and the resultingcivilian casualties get the headlines, the lion’s share of remote piloting consists of quieter, more shadowy work: hour after hour of ISR—intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Sitting in ergonomic chairs in ground control stations—essentially souped-up shipping containers—RPA operators coordinate with ground intel to identify human targets, then track them with high-powered zoom lenses and sophisticated sensors. (A nine-camera sensor nicknamed Gorgon Stare is capable of streaming full video with enough resolution to discern facial expressions.)

“It might be little things like a group of kids throwing rocks at goats, or at each other, or an old man startled by a barking dog,” says Mike. “You get a sense of daily life. I’ve been on the same shift for a month and you learn the patterns. Like, I’ll know at 5 a.m. this guy is gonna go outside and take a shit. I’ve seen a lot of dudes take shits.”

Sascha-Dominik Bachmann considers the moral aspects of drone warfare:

Keith Shurtleff, the US Army Chaplain and military ethics teacher, aptly summarized this concern “that as war becomes safer and easier, as soldiers are removed from the horrors of war and see the enemy not as humans but as blips on a screen, there is very real danger of losing the deterrent that such horrors provide.”