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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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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.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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