Drones, UAVs, and Terms d'art

Drone, so common in the popular discourse, is probably the wrong term for analysts and the commentariat to be using.


  1. I was on the fence about Adam's change in term usage when he first announced it, as drone has been a fairly useful catch-all, and it seemed to make discussion of unmanned vehicles and weapons delivery systems easier. Then this happened:
  2. Which is objectively wrong. Drones, at least some of them, are similar to guns in that both are weapons, but that is the extent of the comparison. Anything that is going to be said from this premise is a statement on weaponry and violence writ large, but the use of drone in any reasonable discourse applies to a much narrower frame of violence. And by using "drone" when we mean unmanned, remotely piloted craft gives an independent agency to the machine that it just doesn't have. It's fun to think that the US sent an autonomous, personalized robot to Mars.
  3. But that's also inaccurate. There's a control room full of people responsible for this, and the Rover, much like any other a UAV or RPV, is human directed. The term we've adopted obscures that. While I can't say I will stop using the term, I am convinced that Adam Elkus has the right idea.