U.S. Air Force foretells drone that can make attack decisions on its own


Authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions. These include the appropriateness of machines having this ability, under what circumstances it should be employed, where responsibility for mistakes lies and what limitations should be placed upon the autonomy of such systems, the Air Force stated.

The super-intelligent drone was just one of myriad plans the Air Force floated in it report. Some of the other intriguing unmanned aircraft possibilities included matching conventional, manned jet fighters with a drone, or “loyal wingman” as the Air Force called it that could help protect a pilot on a critical mission or drop additional ordnance on a target.

The idea of swarming multiple unmanned aircraft on a target is also in the plan. Swarm technology will let a commander use a virtual world to monitor the drones and a wireless ad-hoc network will connect the drones to each other and the swarm commander. The aircraft within the swarm will fly autonomously to an area of interest while also avoiding collisions with other UAS in the swarm. These UAS will automatically process imagery requests from low level users and will "detect" threats and targets through the use of AI, sensory information and image processing.

The Air Force also said it will work to develop better technology to facilitate more unmanned aircraft flying in national airspace. Last year the said routine unmanned aircraft access to the national airspace system poses technological, regulatory, workload, and coordination challenges.

A key technological challenge is providing the capability for unmanned aircraft to meet the safety requirements of the national airspace system. For example, a person operating an aircraft must maintain vigilance so as to see and avoid other aircraft. However, because the airplanes have no person on board, on-board equipment, radar, or direct human observation must substitute for this capability. No technology has been identified as a suitable substitute for a person on board the aircraft in seeing and avoiding other aircraft, the GAO report stated