The price of cost-efficient killing

How drone-warfare forms a huge risk to the safety of innocent people, including ourselves.


Every technological implementation comes with its own set of values and risks.1 Risk can consist of financial consequences, but safety may also be at stake. Safety engineering is one of the pillars and key values of Responsible Innovation.2 Today I will discuss a very controversial technological innovation. An innovation which is developed in the United States and already used by the U.S. Air Force, but will according to the Dutch Ministry of Defense be fully operational for the Netherlands too, by the year of 2017. According to the poster of the manufacturer itself, it is cost-effective in every sense, with as goal to dwell, detect and destroy. Obviously, the subject here are drones. More specifically, the MQ-9 Reaper drone, of which four units have been bought by the Dutch in 2003. As a Dutchman, I am personally not proud of this decision. The reason for this is that when having a better look at these drones, it will become clear that drone-warfare does not only cause a lot of innocent victims on the grounds where they are operating, but also provides a huge risk to our own safety. So, what is this Reaper drone and why does it form a threat to our safety as well as the safety of others?

Drones are not new to the Dutch army, but there is a large difference between the Reaper and the older drones that are already being used. According to the website of the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the Reaper is the only drone that satisfies the current requirement in terms of among other things, maximum flight speed, maximum airtime and observation. If this would have been the only innovatory aspects of the Reaper, I would not have written this column. The problem lies within the fact that by making small adjustments, it can be armed. And where cost-efficient and safe observation by remote is very desirable, killing by remote is not. Let me explain.

According to data conducted by human rights group Reprieve, shared with the Guardian, 1,147 people have been killed, while only 41 men have been targeted.6 This while drone strikes have been ridiculously sold to the American public on the claim that they’re precise. A cause for this high level of inaccuracy is the so called ‘Military Age Male’ concept, which implies that those who are in the vicinage of the target and are a male of military age, become a legitimate target themselves too.

Unfortunately, drones do not only create an excessive amount of victims in the country that they are operative. They also form a threat to the country that operates the drones. Faisal Shazad, the 31-year-old US citizen who was arrested in 2010 after parking a car full of explosives in New York’s busiest square, has said the following: "Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody.” Faisal Shazad will be no exception and the use of drones in foreign warfare will contribute to a growth of the number of terrorists. This only worsens the situation and can eventually make wars permanent.8

Concluded can be, that during the cost-benefit analysis done for the purchase of these drones, there has been a lot of ignorance in the form of a dreadful lack of practical knowledge and insight into the consequences. Drones do not only make a lot of innocent victims, but they also motivate terrorism. These serious short-term and long-term consequences may never be outweighed by anything relatively unimportant as cost-efficiency.






[1] Understanding and Identifying Risks:

[2] Risk Analysis & Safety Engineering:

[3] Defensie koopt vier Amerikaanse drones:

[4] Imag(in)ing drones:

[5] Ministerie van Defensie- Onbemande vliegtuigen:

[6] The Guardian – the facts on the ground:

[7] Inside the mind of the Times Square bomber:

[8] Hoe drones oorlogen permanent maken: