Humanitarian Drones? A Discussion of Emergent Issues
What is a humanitarian with drones, and are actors with drones humanitarian? The last decade, information and robot technology has resulted in the proliferation of new sub-categories of ´techie humanitarians`, ranging from ´imagery-activists` analyzing earth remote sensing to crowdmappers and others active in the volunteer and technical communities (V&TCs). While the job description is different, everyday routines and the skill-sets required for these new categories of humanitarian workers and new categories of soldiers such as cyberwarriors and dronepilots are highly similar. Similarities range from video gaming abilities and basic humanitarian law proficiency to the acute boredom that comes with static surveillance tasks. Yet, as the pilots of weaponized drones have become thoroughly mythologized in popular culture (not getting bravery medals, depressed or callous, insecure masculinities or tomorrows soldier), what will become of the disaster drone pilots as humanitarian drones begin to proliferate in civil airspace? This paper proceeds in two parts: part 1 offers an analytic comparison between the two categories. It presents a biography of the military drone pilot and then move to examine alternatives for certification and training requirements, liability issues, codes of conduct and standards of operating procedure for humanitarian drone pilots. Particular attention is given to the “do no harm” principle. Part 2 locates the humanitarian drone pilot in the broader landscape of humanitarianism. Attention is given to the relationship between key underpinnings of humanitarian reform: accountability, efficiency transparency and to a lesser extent beneficiaries participation, and contemporary debates on remote management and human rights witnessing. The aim is to reflect on contemporary changes in the humanitarian worker identity.