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Soon, Drones May Be Able to Make Lethal Decisions on Their Own

By Joshua Foust, Defense One | October 8, 2013 | National Journal

Scientists, engineers and policymakers are all figuring out ways drones can be used better and more smartly, more precise and less damaging to civilians, with longer range and better staying power. One method under development is by increasing autonomy on the drone itself.

Eventually, drones may have the technical ability to make even lethal decisions autonomously: to respond to a programmed set of inputs, select a target and fire their weapons without a human reviewing or checking the result. Yet the idea of the U.S. military deploying a lethal autonomous robot, or LAR, is sparking controversy. Though autonomy might address some of the current downsides of how drones are used, they introduce new downsides policymakers are only just learning to grapple with.

The basic conceit behind a LAR is that it can outperform and outthink a human operator. "If a drone's system is sophisticated enough, it could be less emotional, more selective and able to provide force in a way that achieves a tactical objective with the least harm," said Purdue University Professor Samuel Liles. "A lethal autonomous robot can aim better, target better, select better, and in general be a better asset with the linked ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] packages it can run."

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that does it!!

i finally thought the economic stimulus for jobs i was waiting for was here and i applied to the local community college to be a drone operator... spent months mastering the atari style joystick and had to press the red button every time a "brown" object appeared...

all the work gone to waste as my job is being automated... thanks for nothing Obummer! and my healthcare premiums are up 300%. IS THIS THE CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN ovomit!!!??

Ron Paul 2012

whoa, getting weird around here: STOP Killer

STOP Killer The SkyNet & the Terminators are Already Here! Stop Them, before It gets Worse!

Press conference to launch the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London, 23 April 2013
Published on May 4, 2013

Press conference to launch the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, 23 April 2013.

Featuring Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, Thomas Nash of Article 36, and Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for RobotArms Control.

** While I'm personally wholly AGAINST utilizing UN to do so, I understand that the campaigners are using what international platforms that currently exist TO bring awareness to the issue. For that, they should be commended and supported by coalitions of even disparate diverse multitudes of political and geopolitical sub-factions, where each individual's moral principles align.


Pull the Plug on Killer Robots
Published on Nov 19, 2012

Machines are starting to take the place of human soldiers on the battlefield. Some military and robotics experts predict that "killer robots" -- fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets --- could be developed within 20-30 years.

Human Rights Watch: Losing Humanity; The Case Against Killer Robots - November 19, 2012

Human Rights Watch: Ban Killer Robots Before It's Too Late
Submitted by Peace Gold Love on Wed, 11/21/2012 - 08:58

Simon Makin's OpEd @ Why we need to stop military killer robots NOW! - May 21, 2013

Toy Soldiers to Killer Robots: Prof Noel Sharkey at TEDxSheffield 2013
Published on Jul 23, 2013

Noel Sharkey is a multi-disciplinarian with a career spanning psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering and robotics. He holds a PhD in psychology/cognitive science and has an honorary science doctorate DSc. He is a chartered electrical engineer and a chartered information technology professional. Noel holds fellowships at the Institution of Engineering and Information Technology, the Royal Institute of Navigation, the British Computer Society and the Royal Society of Arts. He is a member of the Experimental Psychology Society and also Equity, the actors union. Noel is best known to the public for his frequent appearances in the media as a robot expert. His current research passion is on the ethics of robot applications including care, policing, military, crime, sex, transport and medicine.

P.W. Singer: Military robots and the future of war
Uploaded on Apr 3, 2009 In this powerful talk, P.W. Singer shows how the widespread use of robots in war is changing the realities of combat. He shows us scenarios straight out of science fiction -- that now may not be so fictitious.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Watch the Top 10 TEDTalks on, at


Versus Debates: America's Drone Campaign is Both Moral and Effective
Published on Mar 2, 2013

This debate, the third in a year-long series from Intelligence Squared and Google+, took place on 27th February 2013. A panel of world experts tackled the motion, 'America's Drone Campaign is Both Moral and Effective'.

Stay tuned for more monthly debates on topics of global importance at the Google+ Versus page


Jeremy O'Grady - Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared

Speakers For The Motion:
David Aaronovitch - British author, broadcaster, and Times columnist

Douglas Murray - Writer, columnist and Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society

Speakers Against The Motion:
Professor Noel Sharkey - Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield

Clive Stafford-Smith - Civil Rights lawyer, Founder and Director of Reprieve, who recently campaigned alongside Imran Khan in Pakistan against drone use

Expert panel via Google+ Hangouts:

Professor Michael Boyle - Counterterrorism adviser on the Obama 2008 presidential campaign and assistant professor of political science at La Salle University, Philadelphia

Professor Christine Fair - Assistant professor in the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS), Georgetown University

Ibrahim Mothana - 24-year-old writer, activist and a co-founder of Yemen's Watan Party

Dr Mohammad Taqi - Physician and columnist at the Daily Times, Pakistan

The state of robotics, digitization and cyber warfare 02
Published on Jun 25, 2013

Prof. Peter Dombrowski, Chair, Strategic Research, U.S. Naval War College, Newport

Dr. Yabin Liang, Institute for International and Strategic Studies, Party School of the Central Committee of the C.P.C., Beijing

Dr. Marcel Dickow, Security Policy Research Group, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin

Prof. Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, University of Sheffield

Omid Nouripour, MP, Security Policy Spokesperson, Alliance 90/The Greens Parliamentary Group, Berlin

Dr. Niklas Schörnig, Senior Research Fellow, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Chair: Dr. Sylke Tempel, Editor-in-Chief, Internationale Politik, Berlin


*** Here are a few more notable recent talks, interviews, speeches, debates in which Prof. Noel Sharkey participated in:

CrossTalk: Drone Master
Published on Feb 8, 2013

Drone drops in to Newsnight studio
Published on Aug 31, 2012

Panel: How Long Before Robotics in Warfare is the Norm?
CCTV America (Official Chinese State Govt TV)
Published on Aug 9, 2013

Anchor Elaine Reyes leads a discussion with Stanford University Professor of Robots Noel Sharkey, and Mike Lyons, Senior Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, on the future of unmanned robots in the military, and the status of the various machines being developed for use on the battlefield.


South Korea's Machine Gun Sentry Robot
Uploaded on Nov 14, 2006

You have 30 seconds to comply - Promo video of South Korea's new sentry Robot. Uses heuristics and day/night vision to identify and target human shapes.

SGR-1 Samsung's Armed Guard Robot
Uploaded on Dec 15, 2011

CNET: Korean machine-gun robots start DMZ duty
Samsung's SGR-1 robot has already starred in an action film. Now the machine gun-toting badass is taking on intruders along Korea's DMZ.

Samsung's SGR-1 gun bot: Do not mess with it. PHOTO: Samsung TechWin

Tim Hornyak
July 14, 2010 12:42 PM PDT

South Korea's military has deployed machine-gun-toting robots along the heavily fortified border with North Korea, and a related promo video delivers more shock and awe than Kim Jong-Il singing the blues.

Samsung Techwin and other firms developed the SGR-1 robots, and they have been installed on a trial basis at a post in the central part of the Demilitarized Zone, Yonhap News quoted military officials as saying.

The $200,000 SGR-1s are remote-operated sentry bots that work in tandem with cameras and radar systems. They can detect intruders with heat and motion sensors, and challenge them through audio and video communications. The bots can also fire on targets with 5.5-millimeter machine guns and 40-millimeter automatic grenade launchers.

South Korea to field gun-cam robots on DMZ
Stationary droids forced to sacrifice own lives for human overlords

By Lewis Page, 14th March 2007

Technological colossus South Korea is pressing ahead with efforts to join Israel and America in the white-hot field of killer robots.

Korean sources have announced that Samsung, a company better known for its consumer goods, is manufacturing the SGR-A1 sentry unit for deployment on the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea.

Samsung's SGR-A1 robot. IMAGE: Samsung TechWin

The robots will be in place later this year, according to reports.

LOL! But... a year later:

Korean DMZ droids 'unfit for combat'
Fleshy troops hand tin soldiers a can of whup-ass

By Lewis Page, 13th May 2008

The South Korean armed forces have announced that a year-long trial of robotic guard systems versus human troops has been judged a failure for the mechanoids. South Korea remains committed to significant automation of its defences, but intends to move forward with different kit - possibly with overseas involvement.

Defense News reports that the present robotic network was described as "unfit for combat" by South Korean officials, following lengthy comparison of the kit against regular front-line fighting fleshies. The $4m, year-long pilot project was run by Samsung, and is believed to have included the company's SGR-A1 robotic security station, which features electro-optic sensors and a weapons mount for a light machine gun, gas-bomb launcher or rubber-bullet weapon.

*** As always, our politically attuned Taiwanese friends at's hilarious take on all this:

South Korea using robot border guards
Uploaded on Jul 14, 2010 |

The South Korean armed forces have deployed a number of robot border guards along the Demilitarized Zone bordering North Korea. The robots, developed by Samsung and a local university, feature a machine gun and use heat and motion sensors to detect intruders. The robots, which the army hopes will eventually free up troops for other less tedious duties, are being tested ahead of a full deployment.


Previous DP Threads on the topic:

Attack Of The Killer Robots
Submitted by kevink on Wed, 07/03/2013 - 06:21

Israel's Killer Robots
Submitted by davyC on Sat, 08/10/2013 - 13:23

The Killer Robots are Coming
Submitted by declarationofre... on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 16:51

Flying Killer Drone Robot Contraptions Coming Under Fire in Mainstream Media Today
Submitted by Michaelwiseguy on Thu, 06/06/2013 - 04:12

Machine rebellion begins: Killer robot destroyed by US jet
Submitted by Jim Brown on Tue, 09/22/2009 - 08:49


Don't say Paul Verhoeven & ED209 didn't warn ya! .o(


The Case Against Killer Robots with Dr. Noel Sharkey
Published on Aug 27, 2013

Dr. Noel Sharkey joins the broadcast to talk about the future of robots for police and military use. The elites could try an end run around the Constitution by deploying robots equipped with weapons that, unlike human soldiers, won't refuse to obey unlawful and unconstitutional orders.

Predictions in due Time...

"Let it not be said that no one cared, that no one objected once it's realized that our liberties and wealth are in jeopardy." - Dr. Ronald Ernest Paul

I will be happy...

when we take back our country, and then all those cool toys will belong to us! We can use them to take down the NWO without even getting our hands dirty!

Obama Drone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you did not vote for him, you will get a FREE Obama Drone!

oh great, just what we need

May be these drones will be programmed to detect threats to humanity and will turn on their masters.

"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." - Khalil Gibran
"The Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame." - Chuang Tzu

Michael Nystrom's picture


Thanks for posting, E!

Until it does

Until it does this:

Truthfully though, a robot could apprehend a person without the need to fatally injure them or even injure them at all. It cant 'feel' threatened and nor can it die or be damaged as easily meaning it can just stroll right on up to the person. Then there is the fact that the targeting would be close to perfect(unlike in games or movies) so they could know human anatomy and exactly where to hit them so that least amount of injury would occur.
However, I would not trust any robots to make proper decisions until they were quite advanced. That is still a ways off.

To climb the mountain, you must believe you can.