Monday, October 01, 2012

The age of the sentient killer drones

A 'dumb' US Predator drone takes off in Kandahar
Military technicians are working on developing drones that do not need human supervision. Some could even have license to kill 

It’s almost impossible nowadays to attend a law-enforcement or defense show that does not feature unmanned vehicles, from aerial surveillance drones to bomb disposal robots, as the main attraction. This is part of a trend that has developed over the years where tasks that were traditionally handled in situ are now operated remotely, thus minimizing the risks of casualties while extending the length of operations.

While military forces, police/intelligence agencies and interior ministries have set their sights on drones for missions spanning the full spectrum from terrain mapping to targeted killings, today’s unmanned vehicles remain reliant on human controllers who are often based hundreds, and sometimes thousands of kilometers away from the theater of operations. Consequently, although the use of drones substantially increases operational effectiveness — and, in the case of targeted killings, adds to the emotional distance between perpetrator and target — they remain primarily an extension of, and are regulated by, human decisionmaking.

All that could be about to change, with reports that the U.S. military (and presumably others) have been making steady progress developing drones that operate with little, if any, human oversight.

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

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