Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autonomous Warbots

Yesterday the Washington Post published a story on the next generation of warbots:  robots (including drones) capable of autonomous decision-making and action.  The story begins by recounting a recent test at Fort Benning, Georgia in which two drones were able to locate a multicolored tarp on the ground after the pattern had been loaded into their onboard computers.  Acquisition of the target occurred with no human direction after takeoff.  Of course, target acquisition based on pattern recognition can easily be linked to the use of weapons.  But, for the time being, the U.S. military is determined not to take humans out of the loop where lethal operations are concerned.

South Korea deployed two sentry robots last year along its heavily militarized border with North Korea.  (For a video demonstration of the sentry robots' capabilities, go here.)   Thus far, an order from a human operator is required before the SGR-A1 robots can fire on suspected intruders.  It is clear, however, that the robots (built by Samsung Techwin) could be configured to respond autonomously to an intrusion.