Patt Morrison For February 1, 2012

The drone wars – robots that fly and fight all by themselves

Predator Drone Gets New Designation And Function

General Atomics/Getty Images

The MQ 'Predator' drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is shown in this undated handout photo from the aircraft's manufacturer, General Atomics. General Atomics explains that the previous 'RQ' designation for this vehicle has recently been changed to 'MQ' to reflect the aircrafts multi-functional capabilities. The new designation moves the Predator from a strictly reconnaissance role, to an ability to carry and fire weapons such as the 'Hellfire' missile.

Science fiction like the Terminator movies have long entertained and frightened us with depictions of a future dystopia where humans wage war against an army of intelligent and violent computers. Although fighting wars against robots still falls in the purview of Hollywood, fighting wars with robots is rapidly becoming a reality.

As of 2012, unmanned drones make up nearly one-third of U.S. military aircraft, up from 5 percent in 2005. Although it has become commonplace for “desktop pilots” to control planes halfway around the world our military is increasingly relying on autonomous drones that can fly themselves, and experts say that the deployment of flying robots that can make their own tactical decisions isn’t far off. The Navy is even working on a drone that can automatically perform one of the most complex maneuvers required of their planes - to take off and land on aircraft carriers. Although taking pilots out of cockpits keeps American lives farther from the battlefield, saves weight, increases performance of the aircraft and can potentially reduce costs, some military advisers are wary of removing the human element from waging wars.

WEIGH IN:

Who is responsible when no one pulls the trigger? Is the increasing use of drones on the battlefield good or bad?

Guests:

Mary Ellen O'Connell, professor of law, research professor of international dispute resolution, University of Notre Dame

James Jay Carafano, deputy director, Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.


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