‘Killer robots’ one step closer

IssueFebruary - March 2023
News by PN staff

Drone Wars UK warned in January that two recent trials of AI-controlled military drones showed the urgent need for international controls over the development and use of ‘killer robots’.

In January, the British ministry of defence revealed that it had carried out trials on Salisbury Plain in December of a ‘swarm’ of Ghost drones controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) which was updated during the drone’s flight.

In the US, drone manufacturer General Atomics also carried out flight trials in California in December.

An AI ‘pilot’ controlled one of its large Avenger drones ‘dynamically avoiding threats to accomplish its mission’.

According to Drone Wars UK, while these particular trials will not lead directly to the deployment of lethal autonomous systems, the building blocks are being put in place to create killer robots.

While the government says that it ‘opposes the development of armed autonomous systems’, it defines ‘autonomous’ differently from other countries, leaving room for a great deal of what it calls ‘automation’.

The UK has also not been supporting moves to ban autonomous weapon systems at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.