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Rise of the Drones

1:17 PM, Feb 5, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Noah Schactman on the drone surge:

In 2008, 71 Predator robo-craft flew 138,404 combat hours -- a 94 percent increase from the year before, according to an Air Force presentation obtained by National Security Drone's Frank Naif.
That's a just one part of the nearly 400,000 flight hours that medium-to-large American unmanned planes logged during 2008 -- more than double 2006's figure. Over all, a Defense Department presentation observes, the number of drones has grown from 300 in 2002 to nearly 7000, six years later. The amount of U.S. surveillance coverage in the region is up 1431 percent, since 2001.

In related news, the other day NPR had a story reporting that several high military officials say al Qaeda is "decimated" and "really, really struggling."

P.W. Singer has a new book on robotics and warfare that you can find here. Also, Singer gave an interesting interview to Marketplace here.

The drones are excellent at destroying hard-to-reach targets. They can help clear out the enemy. But they can't hold. And they can't build. (Yet.) President Obama still needs to make good on his promise to expand the United States Army and Marine Corps. And while he's at it, he might want to help rebuild and expand our Navy, too.