Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can battlefield robots take the place of soldiers?

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk
A small-vehicle type land robot at a German army base exhibition
Can war be fought by lots of well-behaved machines, making it "safer for humans"? That is the seductive vision, and hope, of those manufacturing and researching the future of military robotics.

With 8,000 robots already in use, they believe they can bring about a military revolution.

Most of the robots currently deployed on land deal with non-combat tasks such as bomb disposal - unlike
lethal aerial drones.

"The closer you are to being shot, the more you understand the value of having a remote weapons capability," he says.

Anyone who has seen the Terminator films may find this vision scary. Quinn admits that, even among senior military figures, "science fiction movies caused a great deal of angst".

QinetiQ Talon robot

But if automated systems are taking decisions, how can we be sure they are hitting the right targets and obeying the laws of war?

A striking example of a robot in need of careful programming is a driverless vehicle developed by the Pentagon, called the EATR.

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