Of course, the issue of unmanned aerial assault and surveillance technology demands serious practical as well as moral consideration. That said, I have to wonder if this cover, designed for maximum effect, is actually going too far for freezing one of the Pentagon’s targeted killing machines over one of America’s fine planned communities. Of course, the scene is pure hyperbole and the editors would expect you and I to know that. But, just like the cashier at my market now believes torture was the key to finding bin Ladin, do we really want Americans who are less in the know thinking these military-grade monsters (Hello, Hellfire missiles!) are coming to your backyard?
Certainly, TIME could have put one of the images from their accompanying photo feature on the cover, this one featuring a more modest NOAA craft. If they had, we’d at least see a more realistic answer to the question of what happens when these more accurately named “unmanned aerial vehicles” are unleashed at home. Not only that, it would spare a lot of civilians the anxiety of encountering that cover all week at that self same check out aisle — not to mention, the free product placement for General Dynamics.
If one were looking for a visual twist on what’s on the horizon for these industrial strength models, however, perhaps TIME’s world edition thumbnails makes for a better (and more ominous) geo-political prognostication.
(photo-illustration: Dan Winters. photo 2: Gregg Segal for TIME caption: Todd Jacobs of NOAA uses a Puma drone with a 9-foot wingspan to survey the population of seals and sea lions in California’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.)