I started watching the TV series "Arrow" on the web. It is a version of the Green Arrow character from the comics. Basically the son of a billionaire dons a hood and uses a bow to fight crime. Think Batman minus the Batmobile.
"Arrow" relies on a plot device of the hero having to go to places in person to interrogate a suspect or confront the bad guy. The hero always ends up in peril and has to shoot someone with an arrow. Good stuff but not quite the way it would work in the real 21st Century.
I give you Exhibit A:
That's Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 available for around $300 dollars from the Apple Store. Our billionaire hero could afford a much more sophisticated and stealthy version but the point is surveillance drones are readily available, cheap and would not require a hero to expose himself (or herself) to danger for the mere sake of collecting information.
The same technology could easily track suspects and bad guys to and from their "secret" hideout without our hero having to drive around recklessly attracting the attention of local law enforcement.
Ah but what about the revenge/justice aspect that makes us watch the Green Arrow or Batman? Don't they have to be present to face-punch the bad guy for committing crimes?
For that I give you Exhibit B:
That's the world smallest drone capable of deliver a dose of poison to any soft-skinned target. Our hero would never have to risk being shot or caught by the police again. He would merely have to launch a miniature drone in the vicinity of his target and let the drone do the work. Perhaps not as satisfying as a face-punch or arrow through the heat but easily more effective and less risky.
The two drones above are the ones that are being talked about in the open. The drones being made under classified programs are likely even deadlier and smaller. Imagine nano-robots that could be placed in a drink or even inhaled by the target. The nano-robots could then kill the target without leaving a trace or perhaps make a target violently ill until they confess their secrets.
The drones demonstrate why large standing militaries will become a thing of the past. Drones can sit on the shelf for months without their skills becoming degraded and then immediately used when needed. Drones don't present the risk of a troop being caught and tortured. Small drones like the ones above can operate below the tree-line making detection by radar or satellite almost impossible.
The anonymity of drones presents one of the biggest dangers. If a soldier or spy is caught, it is rather obvious what country employed them. However, with drones it is not so obvious and may actually create the opportunity for third parties to create conflict.
Reducing the size of the military is attractive from a budget-cutting perspective. Relying more on drones to do tasks such as deliver supplies and operate vehicles makes sense from a safety perspective and in the long run will save money and lives. The risk though is to become too reliant on drones and robots which allows their use with little regard to consequence. The more we use drones, the more our enemies will develop and deploy drones against us.