Skip to main content

'Optionally manned' robotic gun is Army's latest step toward autonomous weapons

m2-50-caliber-machine-gun-009.jpg

There's an interesting division among journalists covering autonomous technology in the defense industry. One faction is adamant that attempts to create "virtual crewman" to replace human pilots in tanks and ground vehicles is distinct from so-called "killer robots." 

Special feature

Cyberwar and the Future of Cybersecurity

Cyberwar and the Future of Cybersecurity

Today's security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions -- or even billions -- of dollars at risk when information security isn't handled properly.

Read More

The other faction thinks this is all the first step toward a Terminator-like dystopia.

The latest chapter in the ongoing debate concerns an automated tank turret. Under direction from top brass, the Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate -- an Army development laboratory -- is now working on an automated turret for live-fire testing next summer. The news was first reported by Breaking Defense, which follows the defense industry.

The turret will use the Army's controversial Artificially Intelligent Targeting System (ATLAS), which can detect and aim a 50mm gun while autonomously determining whether a target is hostile. The system is not set up to pull the trigger, a step that still must be taken by a human actor.

ATLAS, announced earlier this year, is an ambitious program to combine computer vision, AI, and machine learning to create ground vehicles capable of making targeting decisions and taking appropriate preparatory action at superhuman speeds. In a sign that some things haven't changed since the Old West, the idea is that the quickest draw will typically win a fight.

Must-see offers

Officially, autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons systems are subject to strict limitations under Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, which requires a human in the loop in use-of-force situations and prescribes limitations on autonomous weapons to prevent them from firing in case communications are lost.

But critics argue that these restrictions, which, it bears pointing out, are subject to being changed through another DoD directive, don't go far enough to safeguard against the proliferation of autonomous weapons. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is one group that wants more stringent assurances that humans will continue to exercise total control over the use of force, ideally in the form of a global autonomous weapons ban.

In 2017, following a letter from more than 100 notable technology personalities, including Elon Musk, the UN's Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons began formal discussions on the threat of autonomous weapons. 

Nevertheless, development of such systems has been speeding along. Last April, robots cleared obstacles and breached barriers for manned tanks in a joint U.S.-British training exercise and demonstration in Germany, the first time robots have been used for that purpose. Another Army program called Operation Wingman has included range tests of self-driving vehicles equipped with fully autonomous weapons systems. 

Mirroring the nuclear buildup of the 1950s and later, the quandary of autonomous weapons systems is further blurred with the understanding that countries like China and Russia are developing their own unmanned weapons platforms. That could mean we're already well on the way to a future in which robots are commonplace on the battlefield. One potential consequence of that outcome, as I've written, could be that operators in the field are less likely to hesitate before engaging an unmanned system, upsetting long-standing operational restraints that serve to avert escalation to armed conflict.

According to an interview with Breaking Defense, the Army's acquisition chief, Bruce Jette, has left the door open to a less hands-on form of control, wherein humans are supervising a larger number of autonomous guns, such as the ATLAS-powered turrets.

Beep Boop Bop: A brief history of robots,... SEE FULL GALLERY 1 - 5 of 14

Robotics

258 Comments

I'm also commenting to let you understand what a fine experience my friend's girl experienced visiting your web page. She picked up a wide variety of issues, not to mention what it's like to have an excellent coaching mindset to have other people smoothly learn a variety of impossible subject areas. You actually exceeded people's expected results. Thanks for delivering such important, trusted, educational not to mention cool guidance on this topic to Evelyn. jordan 1 mid http://www.jordan1shoes.us

I must show my appreciation to this writer for rescuing me from this type of incident. After looking out throughout the the net and seeing ideas which are not helpful, I thought my life was well over. Living devoid of the solutions to the difficulties you have sorted out as a result of the guideline is a critical case, and ones which could have in a negative way affected my career if I had not encountered your web page. Your own personal training and kindness in controlling all the things was very useful. I'm not sure what I would have done if I hadn't discovered such a subject like this. It's possible to at this point relish my future. Thanks a lot very much for this reliable and result oriented guide. I will not think twice to refer your blog post to any person who desires guidance about this area. yeezy boost 350 v2 http://www.yeezy-shoes.us.org

I wish to voice my gratitude for your generosity in support of individuals that really need assistance with this important concept. Your personal dedication to getting the message around ended up being pretty advantageous and has usually enabled workers just like me to attain their objectives. Your informative help and advice can mean a lot to me and still more to my peers. Thank you; from everyone of us. jordan 11 http://www.jordan11retro.us.com

I wish to show my respect for your kindness for visitors who need help on in this area of interest. Your real dedication to passing the message across was astonishingly good and have truly permitted people like me to arrive at their dreams. Your new helpful hints and tips implies this much a person like me and substantially more to my colleagues. With thanks; from all of us. paul george http://www.paulgeorge.us.com

I would like to show my respect for your kind-heartedness supporting those people who really need guidance on this one subject. Your very own commitment to getting the solution all over became quite beneficial and have regularly encouraged others much like me to attain their aims. Your amazing invaluable hints and tips can mean much a person like me and far more to my peers. Regards; from all of us. kyrie 4 http://www.kyrie4shoes.us

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
The comment language code.