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Autonomous military drones

Who's in charge? A human or a program?

Machines that can make their own decisions and act on them are referred to as "autonomous robots".

At present, all military UAV's in a combat role are controlled by a human pilot many miles away, even on the other side of the planet. But remote piloting systems have limits. The aircraft response can be up to 1.5 seconds after a pilot's actions because of the time it takes to transmit the command. This is too slow in a combat situation and makes UAV's vulnerable to being shot down. Furthermore, any transmitted control system might be blocked by radio jamming, or  hacked into

Thus military researchers are trying to build robots that can move themselves and potentially fight, without a human controller. Aircraft that can  fly without any human control have already been developed.

It is only a matter of time before it becomes possible to make a UAV that can fight without human control. The United Nations has recently been debating the ethics of such "killer robots".

Activity: Read this web page from the BBC about autonomous robots. In particular, watch the video half way down the page.

 UN debates ethics of 'killer robots'

Choose whether you support the development of such robots or not and draft a letter to your Member of Parliament to bring them round to your way of thinking

Drones: Civilian drones

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