In the Guardians of the Galaxy film, the Yaka arrow, when shot by the Yondu Udonta, goes through a lot of people in a flash; The weapon responds very well to certain high octave whistle commands that cause it to change trajectory as needed, return instantly to the holster, or even burn to a fiery explosion on command.

Real-life artificial intelligence drone technology enables the use of autonomous weapons that could do pretty much the same thing and more.

It will be some time yet to see if future robots will steal all of our jobs, but drones are already stealing the march into the future of war. According to common understanding, it has become almost natural to imagine a robot with a human-like shape that fights enemies. Essentially, however, drones are robotic machines that are capable of performing certain tasks quickly and precisely, without or without human intervention.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is said to be the first war to be won at least in part by the (Lethal) Loitering Autonomous Weapons (LAW). As this recent war demonstrated, LAWs can quickly change the balance in a hot conflict. Once launched, they can fly for hours or loiter in the sky until they reach a target and then fall right on it to destroy it, earning the nickname “Kamikaze Drones”.

Their usefulness stems from the autonomy with which they can act according to a pre-assigned goal, which makes it very difficult for the adversary to fight and take countermeasures. Imagine a force of “fire and forget” drones disabling air defense systems to clear the way for the follow-up attack.

Autonomous AI drone technology is bringing us closer and closer to a future that we have only seen in films so far

Advanced Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) are expected to benefit hugely from investments and developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will transform the future of war. According to the International Data Center, global spending on AI will reach $ 110 billion in 2024.

In 2017, China accounted for 70 percent of the $ 39.5 billion invested in AI worldwide. Global military spending on AWS and AI is projected to reach $ 16 billion and $ 18 billion respectively by 2025. These investments indicate the rapid spread of these weapons with increased military utility.

Swarms of drones as autonomous air forces will change the future of warfare

Compared to the resource-intensive research and production costs of conventional weapons, the proliferation of AWS technology would benefit from Moore’s Law and the falling production costs, including 3D printing, that enable robotic drones to be acquired or modified. It’s not hard to imagine a quadcopter drone costing less than $ 100 – used for filming, for example – being adapted for a predatory mission. Think of a drone that can return to refuel or recharge!

It is not difficult to see that AI offers an investment price that offers the possibility of conquering and holding an area without human intervention. This will have ramifications that can be both beneficial and subversive. Security management or target acquisition with remote precision tear down the cost structure around such operations for everyone, while defense against such weapons would be associated with higher costs.

In contrast to nuclear technology, which could only be used commercially to a very limited extent beyond electricity generation, AI is versatile and ubiquitous: It can be used from AWS to smartphone applications. To give just one example: Uber Elevate is a “ride sharing product for urban aviation” that brings people through cities. Dubai is testing the Autonomous Air Taxi, possibly the world’s first “self-flying taxi service”. A few cases can be cited where data analysis is used. AI is therefore the heart of the future economy and is intended to denote its resilience.

A number of drones can also work autonomously as a group based on Swarm Intelligence (SI) technology. In the Hollywood film Olympus Has Fallen (2019), a swarm of AI-powered armed drones quickly overwhelms the president’s protective command. But it was Star Trek Beyond (2016) that showed the devastating power of Krall’s swarm drones as they wreak havoc on the USS Enterprise while Captain James T. Kirk and his crew helplessly fight for their lives. This technology is no longer the domain of creative CGI movie scenes.

These are highly effective intelligent weapons compared to the huge chunky cold war era missiles. In order to fight these weapons, one would certainly need exactly these weapons; the speed and precision of these machines would exceed human response. Even Israel’s Iron Dome, which uses AI-based parameters to achieve missile and missile interception, could be overwhelmed by more accurate drones and by increasing the number of projectiles or swarms.

So, as expected, drones will have to be used to combat drones – which sounds a bit like video games. The crucial decisions about the use of force may for some time be human. A mental extrapolation of the current performance would lead to the conclusion that it would gradually become easier for machines and devices to connect, talk to one another and act together on the basis of defined parameters or algorithms.

Such communication will also have very practical reasons from an aeronautical point of view. But now, take a moment to think about the internet and 5G capabilities and it will instantly remind you of Skynet and me, robot scenarios.

The development will therefore lead to “autonomous systems” that include various attack or reaction mechanisms. The UN Convention on Certain Weapons (CCW) has drawn up guiding principles as a code of conduct for the development of AWS under international law. The CCW has been more fortunate in developing effective policy tools to deal with problematic weapons such as land mines and cluster munitions.

It is to be hoped that CCW can continue the work and lead the discussions to an international treaty that regulates the development and use of these “certain” fire-and-forget machines. However, don’t expect bans.

The buzz of a camera-mounted drone is something we’re all used to when we’ve been to weddings or other events, but the sound of a flock usually has a malicious premonition – ask any farmer. Beyond military use, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Miniature Pilotless Aircraft or Flying Mini Robots have a multitude of uses, ranging from transportation and delivery to photography and adding great value to human capacity. Just think of robots providing food to quarantined patients.

However, autonomous systems that monitor autonomous systems with responsiveness are not a comfortable scenario.

The author’s interests include data analysis, process innovation, and artificial intelligence.
He tweets @ nasrumiallah1

Posted in Dawn, EOS, August 29, 2021