For the first time since 1944, the Pentagon has created a new combat-related medal to award drone pilots. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that the Distinguished Warfare Medal will be given to those who have a direct impact on combat relations, but don't risk their lives to do so.

It's another strong vote of confidence from the military that drone strikes are the wave of the future, despite the nation's strongly divided opinion of their use. Drones have played a major part in the killing of several of America's greatest enemies, however, they've also been solely responsible for the deaths of even more innocent civilians. in fact, a New York Times op ed from 2009 alleged that drone attacks have killed 50 civilians for every one terrorist.

"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought," Panetta said today. "And they've given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar."

The medal will rank slightly higher than the Bronze Star, but lower than the Silver Star. Since the Pentagon makes a policy of keeping its acts of cyberwarfare secret, it's unclear whether or not the awarding of this medal will, too, be private. When an unknown hacker is awarded the Distinguished Warfare Medal, the public might be curious what for.

The medal itself will be made of brass. It will show a laurel that circles a globe with an eagle in the center. The two-inch medal will hang from a red, white and blue ribbon. Pretty.

[Image via AP]