At first glance, IncreasingHumanPotential.org looks legit enough. The clean design, not to mention the oddly inviting domain name, seems to cast drones as non-lethal saviors. “Unmanned systems increase our human potential,” reads the home page. “They enable us to execute dangerous and difficult tasks safely and efficiently, saving time, saving money and, most importantly, saving lives.”
Convincingly warm and snuggly, right? Nothing cold, calculating and weaponized to see, here.
But wait. Flip to the site’s Contact Us page and, oh. Fuck. Turns out the whole thing is being sponsored by none other than the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI. The AUVSI is far and away the world’s largest drone lobbying consortium, boasting well over 600 corporate drone members. Both the so-called Congressional and Senate drone caucuses are sidled up close to the AUVSI, which took credit for most of the language within the drone-authorization streamlining FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (.pdf).
Are all AUVSI’s members dabbling in weaponized, Predator- and Reaper-style hunter-killers? Of course not. But a good deal are. As Business Insider reports, one AUVSI member, Vanguard Defense Industries, plays a “huge role” in robo-arming US federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. One of Vanguard’s drones, the Shadowhawk, can be rigged with a 12-gauge shotgun and 40-mm grenade launcher.
So to see IncreasingHumanPotential singing the high praises of drones by land, air and sea; from “Helping the Environment” to “Enhancing Public Safety” (or, “protecting the protector”), is, for a cautious non-lethal drone optimist like myself, difficult to wrangle with. Because all those case points are true. And I’ll be the first to stick up for drone-equipped resource management, wildlife tracking, cell-tower (or HurriCrane Sandy) inspection, search and rescue, and any other of the dull, dirty, and/or dangerous set. But to see these legitimate uses being slung about by a worldwide lobbying group whose sponsors include nightmarish shoot-you-in-the-face drones is a straight up shame. It’s sort of like those bullshit anti-tobacco TRUTH ads being sponsored by Phillip Morris. Or McDonald’s sponsoring World Fitness Day.
Fuck that. Drones are better than a slick website.