Our photo, by colleague Mike McCarthy, was shot yesterday in front of the Washington Convention Center, where the AUVSI conference is being held.

AUVSI: When you read or hear the word “drone,” is your first thought, “killer robot?” The leaders of the drone industry fear it is, which is why they’re hoping to persuade the news media to stop using a nice, clear, five-letter English word and instead clutter their reports with eye-glazing acronyms such as UAS, UAV, RPA or some such. (Yes, that was an editorial comment.)

How seriously do drone makers take this issue? Journalists logging onto the Wifi in the Media Room at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington this week had to use this password: “DONTSAYDRONES.”


  • M&S

    The trade group and many of its members prefer the terms “unmanned aerial systems” (UAS) or “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAV) or “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) or, as they’re officially known in Europe, “remotely piloted aircraft systems” (RPAS)

    Many military people, on the other hand, dislike the d-word “because they know a drone is a target,” Toscano said, “unthinking, launched across the sky to be shot out of the sky.”

    Indeed, for some military UAS operators, the word “drone” connotes a “dumb” aircraft.

    UAS = You As_. Go ahead, try not to add the second S, I dare’ya.

    RPA sounds like CPA which is just a specialist variety of soul sucking money lawyer.

    RPAS is, well, European. They never come up with cool acronyms.

    UAV has a kind of cool roll-off-the-tongue effect but it still takes too long to say.
    Drone just says it all because it means anything without a pilot onboard and so is universal and short. I doubt if anyone thinks of bees in connection with this word anymore.

    OTOH, manned or not, it’s what drones do that impresses or terrifies.
    When the USSR first started flying this reconnaissance _drone_:

    USAFE couldn’t even get close without reverting to Nike Zeus with an atomic warhead. It was so worrisome that NATO sources published an article in a left leaning European magazine that essentially told the Soviets: “We know you’re doing it, stop now, it’s embarrassing and there is nothing worse than an embarrassed enemy.”

    The Jastreb was the aircraft everyone /thought/ was the MiG-25 which is what led to the Foxbat being uproariously overestimated in it’s performance.
    Because The Hawk could do Mach 3 from Poland across Germany Antwerp before running down the Atlantic coast to Spain and reversing it’s run, over Italy and Austria.

    And the way the _drone_ got this kind of performance was by being a sacrificial unit that, even though made completely from titanium, was destroyed at the end of each mission. Ahhh, the joys of having Siberian mineral rights…

    The Tu-141, the Mirach 600, the BQM-34 and all it’s Compass Dawn and Buffalo Hunt derivatives were also _drones_ that were used for everything from Photint/Elint to chaff seeding to yes, drawing fire. When we got tired of not-admitting where B-45s and the like were going down, we sent in the drones. And nobody thought we were clowning.

    Even as a ‘pure’ decoy, the BQM-74 Chukar which led the way into Iraq in 1991 absorbed dozens of SAMs so that ‘real fighters’, most of whose pilots did not have night vision devices, would not have to try and defeat a flaming 2D streak in the middle of the dark night sky.

    And so you can readily see that it’s not how smart or dumb the vehicle is. It’s how wise the user _should be_ in deploying them. YOU are the weapon, the blade is an extension of your will.

    Which is why civilians tend to get hot under the collar when someone sitting thousands of miles from the aircraft, with no dog in the fight and no survival imperative crushing in on their sensibilities, ‘decides’ to nail a terrorist at a wedding or a funeral with a Hellfire when there are _clearly visibly_ dozens if not hundreds of civilians in collateral proximity.

    We went to war over that kind of nonsense in the Twin Towers.

    What truly frightens people however is that _drones are getting smaller_ as MAVs and below. Which inevitably means that their speed will get lower and their range shorter. Which implies the lookers are now living amongst the people being watched.

    Given what you have done in SWA, for better or for worse and further given that _drones_ are easy to build and so could easily come back at us from other sources, one has to wonder at your motives as self control.

    Not to be rude, but _you work for us_.

    We should have total say over whether drones are allowed inside our civilian airspace as borders and to what extent they can be corporatized for private use.

    Clearly Congress only shows up for the paycheck and offers ‘paid services’ to everyone but the electorate who hired them so, yeah, it’s time to realize how dangerous _drones_ can be, in the wrong hands as scales.

    In this, it must be said that Dumbness is a living quality. Not an affectation of robotic aircraft.

    • chaz D

      And this article beat the dead hores to death but still droned on and on.
      Chaz D

      • Chaz D

        That was supposed to be ” dead horse” not dead hores. Eliminate the hores but save the whores.

  • 2IDSGT

    The DoD should probably just stop announcing what platforms are used on a given mission. Simply using the term “airstrike” would be good enough for information purposes and would also help keep the enemy guessing as to what they’re up against.

  • Vendetta

    They’re drones, you language-policing flacks.

  • Joseph B Campbell

    Call it whatever you want, manned or unmanned, small or large, it boils down to a violation of your rights.

    • Rotten Doodoo

      A violation of our rights? Really? Could you please point out where, in our constitution it guarantees our rights against drone aircraft flying overhead? Or perhaps you might point out where in that constitution or other laws and regulations that prohibits the use of drone aircraft against an enemy or foreign nation.

  • ericPamler

    @ M&S , Could_You_Stop_Your_Non_Sense_..You_are_just_an_armchair_general_who_gets_his/her_knowledge_from_links_posted_on_the_internet_as_opposed_to_getting_a_proper_aerospace_education.

  • Andrew B

    We want them to stop killing, regardless of whatever you feel like calling them.

    • Rotten Doodoo

      “WE” want them? Do you then, speak for the entire population of the United States? As a citizen of the U.S. let me state, unequivocally, that given the choice of placing our soldiers in harms way to kill the enemy or to accomplish that task using drone aircraft, I will choose to use the drones every time.

  • N1tot

    They say unmanned aerial vehicles is the proper term, well I don’t think so, who’s sitting at the ground station with there hand on the joy stick, and pushing the keys on the computer, a man. To be truely unmanned, it would have to be a self thinking vehicle.

  • txkyva

    The president of this organization said, “The average person on the street, and even intelligent and informed people.” I guess that tells you what he thinks of us unwashed masses: Unintelligent, uninformed, and apparently only worthy of being spied on and bombed.

  • Drediock

    Now I call them “Drones”. When I see them over my property I will rename them into “targets”

  • Marcheal Gideon

    Does it matter what it’s called?

  • Daniel Lovejoy

    Political correct speech isn’t applicable to WMD’s.