The Space Bar and the Drone

by Kenneth Anderson

Though I am generally upbeat about the use of drones in military applications, one must recognize design flaws:

The Navy’s latest multi-million pound drone has the unfortunate feature of starting to self-destruct if the pilot accidentally presses the space bar on his keyboard …. The Navy are planning to buy hundreds of drones of the MQ-8B Fire Scout, one of which helicopter almost exploded after the drone’s operator accidentally pressed the space bar with a wire from his headset – which launches the self destruct mechanism on the vehicle.

5 Responses

  1. One would think Control + Alt +Delete would have been the more obvious choice. Does the drone run Windows?

  2. My husband is an MQ9 instructor and he told me that the button on the joystick (yes, they call it a joystick!) to launch a missile is right next to the one that shuts down the engine. These things weren’t designed by fighter pilots.

  3. My attention was drawn to this Newsweek article in the wake of efforts to issue an international arrest warrant for John Rizzo, former Acting General Counsel of the CIA. Ken, your work, is apparently obligatory reading for the lawyers in the killing machine according to the article in which you are cited.

    For all the analysis of the legality of what is being done, I thought that the fact that Rizzo characterizes it sometimes as murder as being pretty eloquent. I guess whether in IHL or IHRL he is seeing this outside of either at least sometimes.  The article is a great read on seeing the methodical bureaucratic approach to killing that is done in our name in these drone strikes.  I especially enjoyed the memo process for determining a target to be put on the hitlist.  That the same guy who the OPR report shows was at the heart of getting cover for CIA torture is also the signoff guy for what he sometimes characterizes as murder should give some folks pause.  But, maybe that does not bother people anymore.

    Of course, for the law professors, the quote I really love is “How many law professors have signed off on death warrants?” and his concern about why persons were upset with the torture but not with the drone strikes.

    Here is just the murder, hitlist, etc quote.  Government as Mafia is what it sounds like – a lament I am making similar to General Taguba’s after Abu Ghraib about the military.

    “A look at the bureaucracy behind the operations reveals that it is multilayered and methodical, run by a corps of civil servants who carry out their duties in a professional manner. Still, the fact that Rizzo was involved in “murder,” as he sometimes puts it, and that operations are planned in advance in a legalistic fashion, raises questions.

    More than a year after leaving the government, Rizzo, a bearded, elegant 63-year-old who wears cuff links and pale yellow ties, discussed his role in the CIA’s “lethal operations” with me over Côtes du Rhone and steak in a Washington restaurant. At times, Rizzo sounded cavalier. “It’s basically a hit list,” he said. Then he pointed a finger at my forehead and pretended to pull a trigger. “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.”


  4. I have a blog over at the Society of American Law Teachers on this drone infatuation under the title “Bringing Light to Dakr matter: Drones, Torture and illegal Wars”

    A video game approach to this really is shocking.


  5. Those are some questionable key binds.

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