DARPA’s Semi-Disposable Gremlin Drones Will Fly by 2019

Dynetics gets funding from DARPA to launch and recover multiple reusable drones from a C-130 Image: DyneticsThis artist’s rendering shows how Dynetics plans to release and catch a swarm of Gremlin drones. We first reported on Gremlins back in 2015, as one of those “DARPA wants” projects that seems like it might be a bit far-fetched—in this case, DARPA wanted swarms of nearly disposable UAVs that could launch and be retrieved from flying aircraft carrier motherships in mid-air. Over the last few years, we’ve seen some progress towards disposable drones, but the tricky part was always going to be the mid-air retrieval. We speculated a bit in our original post about how it might be done, but we didn’t get it quite right, which we know because DARPA has given a company called Dynetics a US $38.6 million contract to make Gremlins real. The picture at the top of this Continue reading DARPA’s Semi-Disposable Gremlin Drones Will Fly by 2019

Debating Slaughterbots and the Future of Autonomous Weapons

People can look at the same technology and disagree about how it will shape the future, explains Paul Scharre as he shares a final perspective on the Slaughterbots debate Image: Slaughterbots/YouTubeIn “Slaughterbots,” a video produced by the Future of Life Institute, AI-powered micro-drones are built en masse and used to kill thousands of people around the world. Stuart Russell, Anthony Aguirre, Ariel Conn, and Max Tegmark recently wrote a response to my critique of their “Slaughterbots” video on autonomous weapons. I am grateful for their thoughtful article. I think this kind of dialogue can be incredibly helpful in illuminating points of disagreement on various issues, and I welcome the exchange. I think it is particularly important to have a cross-disciplinary dialogue on autonomous weapons that includes roboticists, AI scientists, engineers, ethicists, lawyers, human rights advocates, military professionals, political scientists, and other perspectives because this issue touches so many disciplines. I Continue reading Debating Slaughterbots and the Future of Autonomous Weapons

Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘Slaughterbots’

A dystopian future in which killer robots are massacring innocents is terrifying, but let’s be clear: It’s very much science fiction Image: Slaughterbots/YouTubeA scene from “Slaughterbots,” a film that depicts a dystopian future in which autonomous lethal drones fall into the hands of terrorists. This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. Killer drones in the hands of terrorists massacring innocents. Robotic weapons of mass destruction breeding chaos and fear. A video created by advocates of a ban on autonomous weapons would have you believe this dystopian future is right around the corner if we don’t act now. The short video, called “Slaughterbots,” was released last month coinciding with United Nations meetings on autonomous weapons. The UN meetings ended inconclusively, but the video is getting traction. It’s gotten over 2 million views and Continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘Slaughterbots’

Lethal Microdrones, Dystopian Futures, and the Autonomous Weapons Debate

The future of weaponized robots requires a reasoned discussion, not scary videos Image: Slaughterbots/YouTubeIn “Slaughterbots,” a film created by a group of academics concerned about lethal autonomous weapons, swarms of explosive-carrying microdrones are used to kill thousands of people. This week, the first meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems is taking place at the United Nations in Geneva. Organizations like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are encouraging the UN to move forward on international regulation of autonomous weapons, which is great, because talking about how these issues will shape the future of robotics and society is a very important thing. Over the weekend, however, I came across a video that struck me as a disturbing contribution to the autonomous weapons debate. The video, called “Slaughterbots” and produced with support from Elon Musk’s Future of Life Institute, combines graphic Continue reading Lethal Microdrones, Dystopian Futures, and the Autonomous Weapons Debate