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News & Insight

#NotABugSplat | A Photographic Message Of Humanity To Drone Operators

By Kishore Sawh on April 11th 2014

There’s been no shortage of news for the past ten years about drones. Drones have become synonymous with the face of war in the 21st century. Hailed for their ability to keep the American warfighter out of harm’s way, understandable, and criticized for the unfeelingness that those same war fighters have towards their targets, also understandable, when you learn that drone kills of humans are often referred to as ‘bug splats.’ Whatever your stance on the matter, you’ll find opposition to it.


It seems, as has been the case throughout many a war and troubled time, that it is the artists who are, in fact, trying to usher in a world that’s more peaceful and humane. All artists, from musicians, to graffiti artists like Banksy, and photographers, often highlight what is wrong with the world, in an effort to fix it. They often see from a different angle, and their creativity is the means of communicating peace.



There’s a project titled #notabugsplat, whose aim is to bring attention to drone operators and their superiors, and the world public, that their kills are people and often innocent, and that life should never be referred to as a ‘bug splat.’ 

They have released an aerial photograph of a huge poster spread in a field that shows a girl who is a victim of drone attacks. The child lives, but now without parents and siblings, due to their being killed in American drone attacks. They are not alone. It’s estimated that over 400 innocent people have been killed by drones and almost 200 of those, children.



It should be noted here that there are a handful of drone operators who have left their jobs and gone public with harrowing stories. They’ve expressed how their involvement in such incidents, and the lack of emotion felt in killing other people from the other side of the planet.

I’ve personally spent a little time with one. He, like some others, felt there should be a requirement for operators to actually have a full dossier on the people they killed, and view the results of their actions, and the suffering brought on by them. They are compassionate people. Some. And I can only imagine that something like this, a photography project with high hopes, will bring more emotion to remote killing. It’ll also help, hopefully, a younger generation of photographers to see their work can have more meaning than could be achieved through a selfie.

Source and Images via: Gizmodo

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephanie

    A worthy topic and conversation, for sure, but my husband has been a remotely piloted aircraft pilot for nearly 7 years, and neither of us has ever heard or used the term “bug splat.” Not sure where that came from. I also want to point out here that – the conversation about U.S. Military policy aside – that RPA operators are acutely aware of their mission, and I assure you they take it very seriously. I think there’s a misconception that these folks have a happy-go-lucky attitude about what they’re doing and see it casually “like a video game,” and that could not be further from the truth. Really, I don’t know how I can boldface and underline this more – our men and women who fly RPAs understand that they are in a serious business, just like all military personnel. And keep in mind that these men and women are not making the decision to kill or not to kill. These decisions are made by a handful of people far above their heads. I totally agree that our country must have this conversation about RPA warfare with our political leaders, and this issue could shape elections to come, but I caution you from characterizing our RPA operators as emotionless killing machines, because it is simply not true.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Stephanie, hi there. Thanks for posting this. I’m quite a patriot of our armed forces, and have lots of family and friends in many branches. It’s that involvement which had afforded me the contact and time to spend with RPA operators. I’m fully aware the decision to fire is not their own (this I guess could lead down an entirely other road but i’ll keep it short), and that most who fly RPAs understand the gravity of their job, and if you take a look again, I don’t characterize them as ’emotionless killing machines,’ but that the hope is to bring more emotion. My experience from mostly spending time around Navy and USAF fighter pilots have also been FACs helped form my opinion, and it is only that for whatever it’s worth, that there is a certain difference in attitudes between them and front-line fighters, and some of those in the RPA.

      That being said I’d be remiss to leave out the fact that in the case of the Fighter pilot and RPA operator, there are exceptions both erring on the side of good, and bad exceptions. To say they all understand the seriousness would make them all the rule, which is never the case. Sadly for everyone involved, in these matters, the cause for discussion is generally more dire, and often incendiary. I do understand drone piloting is often a difficult, round the clock ordeal for educated, motivated individuals, but they stand right now, as easier targets for a much large topic of debate. I hope your husband remains well. Cheers, Stephanie. Take care.

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