Monday, October 15, 2012

Coming To a Warzone Near You: Kamikaze Drones

South Korea's Devil Killer UAV
Look out! Defense firms are now designing killer drones that are meant to launch suicide attacks on their targets 

Just a few weeks ago The Diplomat reported that the U.S. military was developing unmanned aerial vehicles that are capable of making life-and-death “decisions” on their own, without the need for human input. This scenario, which immediately drew comparisons to at least one famous apocalyptic science-fiction movie, is worrying enough, raising fears of hordes of “sentient” drones turning on their former masters. Now there’s something else out there to worry about, and this one is much closer to seeing action in war zones — the “kamikaze” drone.

About a year ago, reports emerged that the U.S. Army had placed its first order for “Switchblade” drones, small explosive-laden unmanned aerial devices that are launched from a tube and capable of loitering over an area until the order is given to dive at a target and detonate its charge. About the size of a backpack, the “Switchblade,” acquired as part of the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems project, acts as what is known as a standoff agile munition, with the soldier using video feed or GPS to identify targets and call in a “suicide” attack. The 2.5 kg Switchblade has an operational radius of 10 km, with an endurance of 10 minutes and an operational altitude below 500 feet (though it can reach 15,000 feet) [...]

According to more recent reports, the U.S. is not alone in developing that type of technology. The South Korean military is developing its own “kamikaze drone” — known as the “Devil Killer” — which can crash into targets in North Korea at speeds reaching 250 mph.

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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