U.S. drone operator speaks out

Following a widely-publicized interview with Der Spiegel last year, GQ has a long article on the drone sensor operator, or “sensor”, Brandon Bryant. The interview is important since it helps debunk many of the common myths associated with drone warfare: that it is necessarily “remote”, that it is “detached”, and that the operator cannot experience mental trauma or PTSD. The reality is much more complicated–intensified through high-resolution cameras. While the distance between drone and pilot can be thousands of miles, the intimacy of the camera affords a far more visceral, even theatrical, experience of death-by-Hellfire: far more so than, for example, World War II bomber pilots. And so, it is worth highlighting that the topographic distancing of drone warfare doesn’t necessarily translate into a moral or emotional distancing–at least for the daily lives of drone operators such as Bryant.

He says that when flying missions, he sometimes felt himself merging with the technology, imagining himself as a robot, a zombie, a drone itself. Such abstractions don’t possess conscience or consciousness; drones don’t care what they mean, but Bryant most certainly does.

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