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Why Drones Are Still the Future of War

Troops Will Learn to Trust Them

An Australian general stands near a U.S. Army drone during joint exercises in Australia, July 2017. Jason Reed / Reuters

In a recent Foreign Affairs article, Jacquelyn Schneider and Julia Macdonald argue, based on their research interviewing U.S. ground troops, that troops prefer close air support from inhabited (“manned”) rather than uninhabited (“unmanned”) aircraft, or drones. After citing the limitations of today’s drones and anti-drone cultural attitudes among troops, they go on to say that “building better drones will not solve this problem” and that “policymakers should reexamine their apparent commitment to an unmanned future.”

Schneider and Macdonald’s research highlights important limitations of today’s drones. They are wrong, however, to conclude that the United States should reconsider its commitment to robotic technology. Quite the opposite: building better drones can solve many of the concerns they raise and should be a priority for future force development.  

THE SODA STRAW

Schneider and Macdonald identify two main issues with how troops think about drones. The first is an “engineering

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