Lessons

Laufenberg: Debating Drones

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Image courtesy of Israel Defense Forces.

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A playground seen from above in Sacramento County, California. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that over 200 children were killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia between 2004 and 2013. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. The FAA issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013. According to records obtained from the agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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Residential homes surrounding a circular park are seen from above in Montgomery County, Maryland. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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A wedding in central Philadelphia. In December 2013, a U.S. drone reportedly struck a wedding in Radda, in central Yemen, killing twelve people and injuring fifteen.Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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“Tent City” jail in Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced in 2013 that he planned to purchase two surveillance drones for the facility, which is already outfitted with perimeter stun fences, four watchtowers, and a facial-recognition system. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle in San Diego County, California. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been using Predator drones since 2005. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2012 revealed that the Customs and Border Protection lent its fleet of drones to other government entities—including the DEA, the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and local sheriff’s departments—nearly 700 times between 2010 and 2012. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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A national war cemetery is seen from above in Philadelphia. In the nearby suburbs, the Horsham Air Guard Base is a drone command center for foreign strikes and surveillance. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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A fire truck and crew respond to a car fire in the Gila River Indian Community in Maricopa County, Arizona. U.S. drone operators are known to engage in “double-tap” strikes, in which consecutive rounds of missiles are fired on the same target, with the second round intended to kill those who respond to the first. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented at least five such strikes in Pakistan in 2012. Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

This lesson is written as a series of notes for the facilitator.

Educator Notes: 

Discussion:

Divide students into three groups. Assign each of the groups to read one of the articles listed under resources.

For group 1: Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half and on one side  list benefits and on the other side the risks of using drones to  conducting military operations.

For group 2: Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half and on one side  list benefits and on the other side the risks of using drones to  photograph wildfires.  

For group 3: Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half and on one side  list benefits and on the other side the risks of using drones in agriculture.

After students have had the opportunity to read their assigned article and record benefits and risks of using drones in a particular area of life, place students in groups of three or four, making sure that in each group all three articles are represented. Each student should take turns sharing the risks and benefits for the use of drones in the area he or she read about in the article. Students should star the biggest benefit and biggest risk of using drones in their opinion for each of the areas discussed.

After students have had the opportunity to share in groups, open up the discussion to the class. Use the questions below to guide discussion.

  1. Why is it difficult to enforce laws regulating drone use?
  2. What are some of the strongest arguments for the use of drones?
  3. What are some of the strongest arguments against the use of drones?
  4. Based on the list of benefits and risks you created, do you believe drones should be used?
  5. Does the type of use of the drone effect your opinion of whether drones should be used?

Optional Extension:

As a class, watch the video "A Sky Full of Cameras."

After watching the video, discuss the following: How does the video effect your perception of the use of drones? Does the creator of the video seem to have a position on the use of drones? Why or why not?

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