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Unmanned micro air vehicles are proving useful to the military, but also have the potential to invade ordinary citizens' privacy, according to Jennifer Gibbs '02 (Chatham, Mass.), a double major in government & law and art.

Gibbs examined unmanned technologies in a senior honors thesis with Bruce Murphy, Kirby Professor of Government and Law. She began her research by reviewing the history of the U.S. military's air war and the potential for further integration of unmanned weapons. The military has used unmanned craft for about 50 years, she says, including the Predator and Global Hawk in Afghanistan.

Gibbs also took a look at what impact such vehicles may have on democracy if they are used domestically by law enforcement or other government agencies.

“They can be flown remotely, and can be looking in your window right now. It's pretty scary,” says Gibbs, who is considering a career in intelligence. “We looked at some Supreme Court cases that say they would have to get a warrant. There's a responsibility to be sure they are used properly.” She says the Federal Aviation Administration has rules against the use of unmanned vehicles by individuals but is expected eventually to approve them. “I believe restrictions need to be planned for individual citizens, because they can crash, and they can violate privacy,” says Gibbs.

Gibbs based her honors thesis on interviews with people involved in the unmanned vehicle field. The student also attended a conference on the subject in Kentucky and viewed unclassified government documents.

Gibbs hopes to continue researching unmanned vehicles after graduation and has applied to work at the White House and also in the military as a civilian. She would like to go to graduate school and possibly join the National Security Agency.

“I believe that the history of civilization, in particular the history of the United States, is discovered and told through the battles, operations, conflicts, and wars where our people have fought in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Gibbs says.

At Lafayette, she says, Murphy was her first government professor “and he has taught me a great deal. I have been blessed with some wonderful professors and opportunities.”

A White House intern in Lynn Cheney's office last fall, Gibbs also interned at the Institute for Defense Analysis over the January interim session. She has been involved with College Republicans, the Kirby Government and Law Society, and the Easton Republican Society, as well as serving as a resident adviser.

Categorized in: Academic News