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Who is the western military drone operator?

AI Lund Lunch seminar 13 December 2023

Topic: Who is the western military drone operator?

When: 13 December at 12.00-13.15

Speaker: Bibi Imre-Millei, PhD student Political Science, Lund University

Where: Online 

Spoken language: English


Drones, especially aerial drones often called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), are playing a key role in continuing conflicts such as the war in Ukraine. Before these more recent developments, however, military drone-use has been most often associated with US use of drones for counterterrorism and counterintelligence during the war on terror. The western military drone operator has been portrayed in a variety of ways in the global media since drones first began to be used in the 1990s and early 2000s. 

This presentation recounts these various portrayals as part of the background work of Bibi's PhD thesis, which will focus on identity and community among military drone operators in the US, Canada, and Sweden. Starting from the relative absence of discussions around drone operators in the media during the 2000s, this presentation will chart how drone operators have been portrayed as ruthless killers, cowards, gamers, and mentally wounded soldiers, before outlining how the war in Ukraine has begun to shift perceptions. The presentation takes into account how changes in drone technology itself as well as geopolitical events map onto shifts in drone operator portrayal over the last two decades.