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MU Peace Studies Brings Drone to Campus

Kyle Lahman
Staff Writer

During the week of Sept. 24, an unusual object visited Manchester University’s campus: a model drone; an aircraft controlled by computer, not a human pilot. The peace studies program coordinated the model drone’s visit with the hope of raising awareness about the United States’ use of drones.  

According to peace studies coordinator Becca Creath, the model drone was intended to “spark a conversation” about the use of drones domestically and internationally. “The purpose of the model drone is partly to raise awareness about the fact that the U.S. government is using drones,” she said. “We wanted it to be an opportunity to spark a conversation about how we use [drones] and why we use them.”

According to the Hoosiers for Peace and Justice activist group, drones are used primarily for military purposes. The United States currently owns close to 7500 drones, most of which are deployed in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to fight terrorism.

Even though drones played a major role in the killing of Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi and various leaders of al Qaeda, their role in future operations is being questioned by activist groups. The fear is that drones kill too many innocent civilians because of their lack of precision. 

While the use of drones in Pakistan and the Middle East has garnered international attention, Creath also wanted to emphasize that drones are used domestically. She pointed to the use of drones in the United States for surveillance and police work. “It seems likely that in the next 10 to 15 years, drones will be an issue that really affects our lives,” she said.

From Creath’s perspective, the model drone project accomplished its intended objective. Three classes dedicated class time to visiting the drone—two international politics classes and one first-year seminar—and many students took time out of their busy schedules to chat about the drone. “There was some pushback from the students,” Creath said. “But this is a conversation where we need all voices.” 

The model drone was acquired through the Indiana Drone Project with the help of local organic farmer Cliff Kindy. Somewhat of a peacekeeping celebrity, Kindy has participated in missions in restless areas such as Iraq, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. According to Kindy, the Indiana Drone Project is a collection of affinity groups that hopes to boost awareness about drones. Because one of the affinity groups is located in North Manchester, he was able to secure a drone visit.

Both Creath and Kindy stressed that drone operators still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder despite operating from a remote location. This was an issue that hit close to home for Manchester’s student body. According to Kindy, four students had friends or family members that operated a drone, and three of those suffered from post-traumatic stress.

The particular model that the Indiana Drone Project sent was an eight-foot model of the Reaper drone. An actual Reaper drone costs nearly $28 million and is 60 feet long; the model was a fifth of the size and a fraction of the cost. The model is well-traveled, having visited Indianapolis, Terre Haute, South Bend and Fort Wayne before coming to Manchester University.

Before the drone left North Manchester, the town had a chance to join in on the conversation when the drone appeared at the local farmer’s market.

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