Defence equipment manufacturers insist there is always ”a man in the [control] loop” to authorise operations and they are far less indiscriminate than the high level air force saturation bombing that occurred in World War II. Two conferences – today’s Drone Wars in London and a three-day workshop organised by the International Committee for Robot Arms Control in Berlin beginning on Monday – will hear calls for bans and for tighter regulation under international arms treaties. LONDON: The rapid proliferation of military drone planes and armed robots should be subject to international legal controls, conferences in London and Berlin will argue this month. Public awareness of attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles, such as Reapers and Predators, in Afghanistan and Pakistan has grown but less is known of unmanned ground vehicles. Noel Sharkey, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sheffield University, said: ”Our biggest concern … is autonomous systems that [select] targets themselves.”

David Webb, a professor of engineering at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: ”If they kill somebody by mistake do you put the robot on trial?”

Guardian News & Media

  The development of what is known as ”autonomous targeting” – where unmanned planes and military ground vehicles are engineered to lock automatically on to what their onboard computers assume is the enemy – has heightened concern. This has reinforced fears that unmanned aerial vehicle strikes wherever future wars are fought will increase death tolls. Research to enable unmanned aerial and ground vehicles to work collaboratively is under way, ensuring each machine selects a different target.
Photo: AP Members from the Tiger Aircraft Maintenance Unit performing last minute pre-flight checks on the Predator drone before take off.