Drone Lobby Visits Congress

A UAVSI rep isn't happy to see CODEPINK protestors outside the Drone Expo for members of Congress
Not everyone is happy to see CODEPINK protestors outside the Drone Expo for members of Congress

Manufacturers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, visited members of Congress today on Capitol Hill. Corporate members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) put on a drone expo for representatives from the House Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus.

Protestors from CODEPINK were on hand to greet AUVSI representatives as they entered the Rayburn Building. CODEPINK’s co-founder Medea Benjamin has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s use of drones. She recently wrote a book on the subject called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK speaks to a AUVSI representative
Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK speaks to a AUVSI representative

AUVSI  bills itself as “the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.” And there’s big money in drones. Drone manufacturers, such as Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Israel Aerospace Industries and General Dynamics, have cashed in on the U.S. military’s reliance on UAV’s in recent years. They are vying for the $3.7 billion designated for unmanned air systems in the 2014 military budget.

jr_kpk_full-770x433The use of drones for “targeted killings” however is extremely controversial. It has increasingly come under fire as civilian casualties mount from U.S. drone bombings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Recently a village in Pakistan unfurled a giant portrait of a little girl in a field with the intention of making the photo visible to a drone operator from above. It’s uncertain whether putting a face to collateral damage would cause a drone operator to hesitate, but the image has gone viral on the internet and publicized the effects of U.S. drone bombings.

A Raytheon representative makes a sales pitch to Rep. Buck McKeon at the CUSC Science & Technology Fair 2012
A Raytheon representative makes a sales pitch to Rep. Buck McKeon at the CUSC Science & Technology Fair 2012

Fifty members of the House of Representatives, most of them Republicans, make up the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus. The Caucus makes no effort to hide that it represents the UAV industry’s interests, not the people’s. According to the Caucus’s website: “We are this industry’s voice on Capitol Hill, and will work closely with industry to ensure we continue to expand this sector through efficient government regulation and oversight.” General Dynamics is a major donor to the Caucus.