Future Drones Won't Even Need Humans

Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011 11:12 AM

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The next step in the evolution of military drones will be vehicles that operate on their own with no human intervention. The drones will search, target, and strike the enemy based on software calculations, The Washington Post reported.

The system is being tested at Fort Benning, Ga., where two planes have found and targeted an orange, green, and blue tarp with no human intervention, like something that might have come out of the Cyberdyne labs in the Terminator film franchise.

The Fort Benning tarp “is a rather simple target, but think of it as a surrogate,” said Charles Pippin, a scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which developed the software. “You can imagine real-time scenarios where you have 10 of these things up in the air and something is happening on the ground and you don’t have time for a human to say, ‘I need you to do these tasks.’ It needs to happen faster than that.”

The next step would be to have drones search for a human target, make an identification using software such as facial-recognition and then kill the target with a missile. That capability may be decades away but the U.S. military is funding numerous research projects, the Post reported.

“The deployment of such systems would reflect a paradigm shift and a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities,” Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said at a conference in Italy. “It would also raise a range of fundamental legal, ethical and societal issues, which need to be considered before such systems are developed or deployed.”

Drones being used in the Mideast already perform some automatic functions but humans still make the decision to fire on a target, the Post reported.

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