This article was submitted by Derrick Broze

As we mark the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s drone war questions remain on whether the drones are effective, if Americans support their use domestically, and whether the technology is a threat to privacy, a harbinger of doom or a possible way to expand freedom.

In February 2012 Congress voted to begin allowing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, into public airspace. The Federal Aviation Authority was charged with drafting the rules under which the controversial aircraft will operate. In December 2013 the FAA designated six U.S. cities as test sites for reviewing the technology and developing the rules for drone use. Currently the FAA has until September 2015 to create a safe environment for drones to fly alongside commercial airlines and military planes.

At a recent Senate hearing the FAA stated they did not believe full integration of drones with standard air traffic would happen until 2020. Lobbyists for the drone industry asked Congress to speed up the process so the United States could catch up to countries such as Japan that have taken advantage of drone technology. Senator Dianne Feinstein testified at the hearing, calling for protection from armed drones on American soil.

It seems obvious the Era of the Drones is upon us. From armed predator drones flying overseas and murdering suspected militants, to drones delivering packages to your doorstep, it is perfectly clear that UAV’s are here to stay. One estimate sees the industry exploding to over $89 billion in the next ten years. With such a diverse amount of ways to use this technology privacy concerns have become rampant. Some Americans also seem weary of normalizing a technology domestically after it has been the cause of so much suffering internationally.

The journal Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict recently featured two papers discussing the use of drones by the military. In “U.S.Public Support for Drone Strikes against Asymmetric Enemies Abroad: Poll Trends in 2013″ Tom McCauley discusses an increasing amount of Americans who are against the use of drones on suspected terrorists in foreign countries. He notes that if drones continue to receive negative publicity within the United States and abroad they may become “politically impractical”.

“Drone Warfare and Contemporary Strategy Making: Does the Tail Wag the Dog?” asks whether drones are actually increasing the power of anti-U.S. protesters by gaining sympathy with the civilian population. The paper, written by Metin Gurcan, wonders if the use of drones are counter productive despite perceived benefits. In the face of these concerns the annual budget for drones has increased from $1.9 billion in 2006 to $5.1 billion in 2011.

Although it is unlikely that we will see armed drones in our skies anytime soon the track record for drone deaths in other nations has painted the technology in a negative light. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the CIA carried out 27 drone strikes in Pakistan during 2013, and 38 in Yemen, including the now infamous attack on December 12, 2013 that killed 15 people at a wedding. TBIJ estimates over 2,400 deaths in the last 5 years since Obama took over the drones. It is difficult to know exactly how many civilians have been killed under the U.S. drone program since official numbers are not recorded, however Senator Lindsey Graham estimated that 4,700 people have been killed.

In October 2013 family members of those slain by the U.S. in Pakistan told their story to Congress. This marked the first time the victims, often referred to simply as militants, were given an audience with the American public and U.S. lawmakers. The public has also been missing perspective from another component of the drone war: the pilots.

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