For the rest of this week, Robohub will have a special focus on the use of robots in warfare.
All kinds of robots are being developed for strategic defence and military action (in space, in the air, underwater and on the ground). At Robohub we’ve had the opportunity to cover a wide range of them, including exoskeletons, transport mules such as Big Dog and DARPA’s LS3, and video reconnaissance systems such as iRobot’s Packbot. But by far the most talked about military robotics technology is the UAV.
Whether you call them drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, almost everyone‘s got one. According to the US Government Accountability Office, seventy-six countries now have drone technology, though not all are armed.
Since we launched this past August, Robohub has scooped a number of stories on who’s got UAV technology and who’s using it for military purposes (including the US, China, Australia, Europe, and others). And while there are many kinds of stakeholders with an interest in the technology (including police, surveillance, film, the hobby market, and search and rescue), military organizations are clearly the big spenders driving the market.
This lop-sided military interest in UAVs has helped to fuel a two-pronged debate:
On Robohub, Sabine Hauert’s insightful Robots and Ethics podcast elegantly captured both sides of this debate, and Mike Hamer also explored the ethics in his opinion piece Losing Humanity.
But there is also a third perspective out there: that UAVs and drones can be a whole lot more than killers and spies (see for example, Ryan Calo in Bad laws would hurt good drones, Time Magazine’s Why we shouldn’t fear personal drones and What happens when drones return to America, Motherboard TV’s Drone On, and Journey Man Pictures’ Rise of the Machines). Robohub contributor Eric Wind has also pursued this perspective.
As part of our focus this week:
We hope that you find this focus series provocative, and we look forward to your comments.