The Next Wave in U.S. Robotic War: Drones on Their Own
The U.S. military’s current fleet of drones will soon be overtaken by a new wave of robots that will be faster, stealthier and smarter — operating virtually without human intervention, experts say.
The Pentagon is investing heavily in “autonomy” for robotic weapons, with researchers anticipating squadrons of drones in the air, land or sea that would work in tandem with manned machines — often with a minimum of supervision.
“Before they were blind, deaf and dumb. Now we’re beginning to make them to see, hear and sense,” Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force, told AFP.
Unmanned aircraft are now overseen by “pilots” on the ground but as the drones become more sophisticated, the role of remote operators will be more hands-off.
Instead of being “in the loop,” humans will be “on the loop,” said Maybury, explaining that operators will be able to “dial in” when needed to give a drone direction for a specific task.
“We’re moving into more and more autonomous systems. That’s an evolutionary arc,” said Peter Singer, an expert on robotic weapons and author of “Wired for War.”
“So the role moves from being sort of the operator from afar, to more like the supervisor or manager, and a manager giving more and more of a leash, more and more independence,” he said.
Despite the dramatic advances in technology, the American military insists humans will remain in control when it comes to using lethal force.
But the next generation of increasingly capable drones will stretch man’s capacity to control robots in battle, generating unprecedented moral and legal quandaries.
“These (technological) responses that are driven by science, politics and battlefield necessity get you into areas where the lawyers just aren’t ready for it yet,” Singer told AFP.