THE US 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 US Air Force, said. The role of remote operators will be more hands-off.
Instead of being “in the loop”, humans will be “on the loop”, said Dr 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.
The biggest technical hurdle for Pentagon-funded scientists is delivering an iron-clad guarantee that these more autonomous vehicles will not make a grievous mistake with potentially catastrophic consequences.
One veteran robotics scientist, Ronald Arkin, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, believes that it is inevitable that countries will deploy independent robots capable of killing an enemy without a human pushing a button.