I know this is beyond the the scope of IPVM, but I certainly hope the US government uses more advanced/reliable intel. to aquire potential strike targets. Just having a gun (or shovel) in your hands should not be enough to warrant a drone strike. If the determination is really just on the basis of grainy video footage, then I pity those in the line of fire. Additionally, what does this mean when police departments & other civil authorities eventually start using drones? Will they need more indisputable proof or will grainy video be enough for their own citizens?
In theory, I'm not necessarily against the use of drones in war, but I am surprised that our military video technology is not up to par for use at those distances, especially given people's lives depend on it. Unfortunately, the technology aspect of this matter is far beyond my expertise to make any meaningful contribution.
This might be overly simplified/basic, but here goes....
Would the addition of a high resolution still photography camera be of any value? Wouldn't such a device be able to take one shot that has more detail & less bandwith than a video stream? If this is true, the video could be used to do an overall area scan and then the operator could snap a high-res still photo of the target for final analysis.
Although I'm sure the military is way ahead of my simplified ideas and have thought far beyond my little brain's capacity. ;o)
A much more in-depth story of a real-life U.S. drone operator - the story of Airman 1st Class Brandon Bryant - can be found at GQ from a few months ago:
The story from the OP seems to insinuate that decisions to fire - and what to fire upon - are made by the drone operators themselves. While the 'Confessions' story I posted clearly indicates the same problems with drone operators being able to confidently identify people due to pixelization, it also clearly shows that the drone operators themselves aren't the ones deciding when to launch.
i.e. rather than flying Predators around smoking jihadists and the occasional Afghani gardener, generally the intel boyz figure out someone high on the killin list is at such and such a mud hut and the drone operator just paints said hut w/lasers and - after much repeated procedural jargon - releases the Hellfire.