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Monday, February 28, 2011

Military Robotics Business Opportunities & Risks

ABI Research has released a new research report titled ‘Defense Robots: UAVs, UGVs, UUVs and Task Robots for Military Applications’. The study predicts that the global military robotics market will experience significant growth from $5.8 billion in 2010 to around $8 billion in 2016.

In the report Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design (2008) Patrick Lin, Prof. George Bekey, and Keith Abney, Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University recommend "not to unduly rush the process" of introducing robots in military affairs without a rigorous testing phase of robots. They discuss the challenge of creating autonomous military robots that can act reliably according the Laws of War and most Rules of Engagement, i.e. to distinguish enemy combatants from non-combatants. They conclude that military robots aimed to also replace human soldiers, especially in ‘dull, dirty, and dangerous’ jobs, raise novel ethical and social questions that should be raised "before irrational public fears or accidents arising from military robotics derail research progress and national security interests."
Credit: Talon Metal Storm
Robot Arms Control
According to the International Committee for Robot Arms ControlICRAC, more than 40 countries already have robotic programs and even Iran has launched a UAV bomber with a range of several hundred miles. Unmanned robot systems are still difficult to develop but easy to copy. The committee fears that advances in robotic systems will lead to more countries committing to war, since robots would be taking the place of humans on the battlefield. The biggest concern for the future is autonomous systems that select targets themselves. ICRAC is promoting the regulation and control of armed military robots including a prohibition on the further development of armed autonomous robots and the setting of restrictions on armed tele-operated drones for applications such as targeted killings in sovereign territories not at war.

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