Nano Drones, Ethical Algorithms: Inside Israel’s Secret Plan for Its Future Air Force

Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket; helicopters piloted by robots who extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield; micro satellites on demand; large spy balloons in the upper reaches of the stratosphere; virtual training with a helmet from your office; algorithms that resolve pilots’ ethical dilemmas (so they won’t have to deal with those pesky war crimes tribunals); and farming out code to a network of high school kids.

Since mid-2009, some 300 Israel Air Force officers have been brainstorming about the next steps for one of the world’s most advanced air forces, and the main pillar of Israel’s strategic power. This “IAF 2030″ project has just come to an end. Besides a standard press release issued by the military, little has been disclosed about it. Exclusive details are reported here for the first time.

The task of preparing the project was given to Major Nimrod Segev, head of the IAF’s long-term planning department. Segev divided his 300 officers into nine teams: Advanced Information Technology, Vast Data, Space, Cyber, Environment, Intelligence, Human Factor, Organizational Behavior, and a ‘Red Team,’ to challenge the other eight’s assumptions.[…]

Segev did open about one of the more controversial ideas that came up, however: the notion of “mathematical formulas that solve even the difficult ethical dilemmas in place of human pilots.” The air force has been developing technologies for quite some time now that can divert missiles in midair if all of a sudden a civilian pops up near the target, but often this kind of thing happens too quickly even for the most skilled operators. It’s part of an uneven, decade-long IAF effort to try to bring down collateral damage — a necessity, since the air force fights asymmetric enemies in densely populated areas. But this is something the IAF is keen to develop even more.[…]

Segev also told Danger Room that the Space and Intelligence teams found the 100,000 feet layer of the stratosphere “very interesting.” These days, the best warplanes can only fly to somewhere around 50,000 feet, and the best satellites in low orbit can get down to 500,000 feet. That leaves a whole ‘middle layer’ where “you can get really creative,” he adds.

Another off-the-wall idea: farming out complex coding and other technical tasks to a network of six technical high schools run by the IAF across the country.

Read More: Wired

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