The dawn of the robots is here. And I’m not just talking about the Sophia-s of the world, but of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, that are capable of autonomy, too. Besides the innocent videography drones many of us use in creative projects, there are kamikaze drones out there that until recently, needed operator oversight before engaging. Well, not anymore.
A Turkish-made kamikaze drone called the STM Kargu-2 is said to have atacked retreating soldiers without an operator’s go-ahead. The autonomous UAV simply targeted soldiers during a civil conflict in Libya and may have, according to one report, led to multiple deaths.
“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability.”, reads the UN report that brought to our attention this terrifying incident.
Kargu-2 drone effectively acted, according to UN’s Security Council report, as a “loitering munition”. What is that? A type of ammunition that hovers by until it locks onto a possible target. It’s comparable to an aerial landmine that goes off when a target enters its proximity without human oversight.
Needless to say, that is terribly careless and dangerous. It shows that we’re at the point where machines, not humans, can start wars and kill people. It also makes all those sci-fi scenarios, where robots are sent to battle instead of people, so much more likely.
This is not a rare occurence, either. There has been a tendency of late of bringing high-tech to the battlefield with little regard as to what that may imply for the future of large scale conflicts.
A Chinese company named Ziyan has marketed their autonomous helicopter drone equipped with a machine gun to international buyers, looking to export it to the Mideast. On the other hand, the U.S. military is looking to add to its ranks not one or two but 33 nano drones, each weighing just 33 grams. Meanwhile, Russia is arming their drones with explosives, going from reconnaissance drones to killer drones, in a heartbeat.
As much as we’d like to think drones as tools for doing some good, like planting trees and joining rescue missions, the truth is more often than not, the advancements in drone technology will be used to win wars and end conflicts… by whatever means necessary.