The US Defense Department will soon be equipped with new unmanned aerial vehicles that will operate more “autonomously” at a greater pace.
The Pentagon is reportedly investing heavily in the new smarter robotic weapons that will get rid of their remote operators on the ground to work virtually without human intervention and with minimum supervision.
"Before they were blind, deaf and dumb. Now we're beginning to make them to see, hear and sense," says Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the US Air Force.
The future drones will have a longer range, more powerful jet engines and a radar-evading stealth design.
The biggest challenge the Pentagon-funded scientists behind the technology face is to guarantee that the independent unmanned vehicle will make a horrific mistake with grave repercussions, a setback the current drones controlled by their on-the-ground pilots have failed to achieve, especially in Pakistan where the US has for years continued the drone war against militants but civilians have paid the price with their lives.
Ronald Arkin, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who has worked on U.S. defense programs for years, says the robotic weapons must be designed to be “ethical” fighters with the capability to distinguish combatants from civilians.
"It is not my belief that an unmanned system will be able to be perfectly ethical in the battlefield, but I am convinced that they can perform more ethically than human soldiers are capable of," he wrote.
Using drones as a weapon started under George W. Bush but the trend escalated dramatically after Barak Obama took office with Pakistan, along with Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia, as the spotlight of the remote warfare.
Researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School have released a new report titled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan."
The report says drones hover round the clock over areas in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public places without warning, terrorizing civilians, especially children and giving rise to trauma among them.
The authors conclude that "while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians."