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Soldier launching UAV  (Source: Sgt. 1st Class Michael Guillory, U.S. Army)
Robots with ethics could one day be used on the battlefield

The United States military continues to invest heavily into robotic technology, as the newer generations of robot-based soldiers will be programmed to understand battlefield ethics.

According to an article in the Army Times, the so-called 'ethical robots' would follow international laws.  Ronald Arkin, from the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, wrote a book to discuss the future of robotics.

In "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," Arkin claims robotics, if programmed correctly, have numerous advantages over human ground troops.  Robots are emotionless , expendable, and can be customized for specific missions.  

It's possible the robots could be taught remorse, compassion and guilt, but exact senses the robots would be programmed with are still unknown.  Furthermore, depending on the determined level of guilt, and the mission being carried out, the firepower and effectiveness of weapons used will change.

The robots could also be used to monitor soldiers to ensure international treaties are being followed by U.S. and coalition ground troops.  Although many soldiers don't want to be monitored in such an intrusive manner, several high-profile cases of abuse and murder have further blemished the military's image among locals in Iraq.  

If funding is properly allocated for the research, it could be available in 10 to 20 years.  As the U.S. continues to fight wars using enhanced technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other unmanned resources have become popular alternatives to launching manned missions -- and is expected to further increase in the future.

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Are They Hacker Proof?
By KakarotUSMC on 12/29/2009 9:16:31 PM , Rating: 1
So if $30 off-the-shelf software can be used to hack into the video feed of U.S. multi-million dollar UAVs, why should we be confident in a robotic soldier?

And how are we going to pay for it? Maintenance costs included, what is the bottom line TCO on these?

As a leader, I am not thrilled at the prospect of risking the lives of my Marines in combat on the promise that robotic soldiers can safely share the battlefield.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Noliving on 12/29/2009 11:27:30 PM , Rating: 3
Because the video feed from the drones was unencrypted, which means there isn't any hacking really what so ever, all you need is a receiver. It's the equivalent of over the air tv or over the air radio in either FM or AM.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By mi1400 on 12/30/09, Rating: 0
RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By mi1400 on 12/30/2009 4:39:43 AM , Rating: 2
And by the way it was encrypted. the goofy technique to achieve encryption was to add a glitch which they thought no one could discover.
"the bigger problem is that Pentagon officials have known about this flaw since the 1990s, but they didn't think insurgents would figure out how to exploit it"

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By seamonkey79 on 12/30/2009 9:02:53 AM , Rating: 5
Well, if they were smart, they wouldn't be fighting us, right?

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By PAPutzback on 12/30/09, Rating: 0
RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By seamonkey79 on 12/30/2009 10:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
Silly self, I forgot the <sarcasm></sarcasm> tags that seem to be required.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By knutjb on 12/30/2009 12:14:37 PM , Rating: 3
"the bigger problem is that Pentagon officials have known about this flaw since the 1990s, but they didn't think insurgents would figure out how to exploit it"

Put your statement into context. What form of video encryption in the 1990s was cost effective and practical for field deployment? The 486 was a hot CPU at the time and who here is running one today? Was it overlooked, yeah, the threat was perceived as low.

Today there are more effective ways to encrypt because technology is available to make it happen. The program managers need to rethink their priorities as well as their supervision overseeing them. Time to move some new people in. That said no system is perfect and all encryption systems are prone to cracking. To you "arm chair quarterbacks" the military's biggest problem is politicians who don't understand the cost of losing vs the cost of providing the best equipment.

My proof: for the Kosovo war Bill Clinton funded that conflict from the training budgets of the units who participated. Once the main battle was over the additional materials consumed, i.e. bombs, parts, bullets, etc..., were not replaced and many who required training went non-current and were downgraded because they had no money to train.

Finally, politicians in power today confuse the military for a police force. The two are not the same and it is very dangerous to treat the military as such. Their missions are completely different as are their modes of operation. The incorrect application of the US Constitution as a world document in place of the Geneva Convention will cost lives, wait and see.

War has no prize for second place.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Lerianis on 12/31/2009 12:50:48 AM , Rating: 2
War has no prize, period.... the only people who push for war (save if they are attacked first) are usually armchair bullies who wish to force the rest of the world into doing what they wish them to do.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Vertigo101 on 12/30/2009 6:37:24 PM , Rating: 2
Rover, the video feed that they're 'hacking'(what a joke to even say that), is being transmitted in the clear, even as I type this. Its primary use is to give troops on the ground access to the UAV feed that is covering their op.

There is a digital variant of Rover, but the equipment isn't as widely deployed, and not everyone who has it knows how to make it work, so often analog Rover is still the fallback.

They also have a version that's more specific to the One System, a horrible POS, that is also slightly more secure.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Shadowself on 12/30/2009 9:54:43 AM , Rating: 2
First, many of the fielded systems are as much as 15 years old. UAVs have been in use much longer than most people think. The older systems do, indeed, have unencrypted links.

Second, there has been a strong push for the past two to three years to update the systems to support encrypted links. It takes time to retrofit all the fielded systems. It's NOT just the airborne platforms (which number in the many hundreds) but also all the ground systems (which number at well over 10,000). Encrypting the link from the airborne (transmission) side is useless if the ground teams don't have the ability to decrypt it.

Third, there are the coalition forces that have to receive the data too. So you have to get them to upgrade their systems. This takes additional time -- either that or the U.S. expends the personnel and money to have their own people and hardware/software included with every small unit of any coalition team.

Fourth, for most platforms the video stream that is the topic of this discussion is never on for the full mission. For most platforms the imagery stream used to fly the systems is not the same as the imagery stream for identifying targets. In many systems an imagery stream is not necessary at all in order to fly the system. Thus the imagery stream is not going to point out where our forces are at the landing site (and in many cases the takeoff/landing site is not even in the same country as the operational zone).

Finally, as you are probably aware, there are many different levels of encryption -- some open to the public (e.g., Blowfish, DES, 3DES, AES) and others kept close by such agencies as the DOD, CIA and NSA, which are not available to the public. Which of these codes do you wan to use? Do you want to give the closely held encryption/decryption technologies to all coalition forces/governments? Or do you want to just give the "public" ones -- knowing that virtually all the "public" ones will eventually be hacked and useless thus again exposing the troops just as if they were never encrypted in the first place (or worse since we may not be aware they've been hacked).

When dealing with encryption/decryption on this scale it is never as easy as clicking the on screen button in WinZip or PowerArchiver. I've just scratched the surface of all the issues here.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Moishe on 12/30/2009 9:08:02 AM , Rating: 4
I think the easier thing to do would be to simply not play by the rules.

A good example of this is the movie "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson. In a battlefield full of rules, the little guy has only one choice if he wants to win... That choice is guerrilla warfare.

So while our robots fight with a smile, refuse to win, etc... the enemy will be pulling the same stunts as always. Hiding behind civilians, beheading, torture, etc.

Can't say as I blame them. The choice of hobbling ourselves in order to gain "respect" instead of victory is our choice, not theirs.

RE: Are They Hacker Proof?
By Lerianis on 12/31/2009 12:56:08 AM , Rating: 3
There comes a time where you have to realize that you can have a military 'victory' but still also lose the fight because you piss off the people in the country which you are fighting in and turn them against you, thereby turning them into the next generation of 'terrorists' (which is a made-up term for politically, historically or religiously motivated mass murderers).

That is the problem we are having with Afghanistan right now. Everyone wants to 'destroy the Taliban' without realizing that right now, we are just killing the family members of a lot of people in Afghanistan (and Iraq) who were, at most, NEUTRAL towards us in almost all cases, and turning them totally against us, thereby creating our own worst nightmare.

What the United States should have done was gone into Afghanistan and SMASHED the Taliban, then LEFT Afghanistan to it's own people with a stern admission to keep the religioloonies out of power or "We'll be back!" to quote Arnold, and NOT gone into Iraq AT ALL!

Or, at least, not without the full support and backing of every other Middle Eastern state, save Iran and EVEN IRAN if we could have swung it.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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