The Drone Wars

 In Artificial Intelligence, Technology

It’s probably true that I think about drones a lot. Sometimes from a recreational point of view, mostly from a development point of view and then occasionally I think about their military potential.

This post is about the latter musings of my mind. It could be considered dark by some, visionary by others or just downright silly. I’ll let each reader decide for themselves 🙂

I have had a few thoughts of late about the potential for drone technologies. I’ve thought about how they may be developed, considered how they might be used and I’ve pondered how these drones may get used in the battlefield.

I have come to a conclusion. World Ward 3 will not be a nuclear war. It will be the war of the drones!

There are a number of scenarios or use cases that start to worry me. Firstly, drones can and are being weaponised. These weaponised drones come in a variety of shapes, sizes, models, strengths and weaknesses. However, they share a common goal. That is that they are designed to lock onto an enemy target and destroy it without the need to send a human into the battlefield.

Secondly, these drones are being designed with very high levels of smart-ware. That is smart software that can very quickly identify friend from foe, lock onto the target and destroy it. Mostly there is a human ‘approval’ protocol in place, but this is not always the case. You must know that this kind of technology exists today.

The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most – Elon Musk writing about AI

Finally, drone development is progressing at a phenomenal pace at the moment. We are without a doubt at the dawn of drone technology and it has a huge potential to develop very rapidly across a wide range of scenarios. New materials, new battery technologies, new software and ever advancing production techniques are all going to contribute to more superior drones. Drones that will fly higher, be more resilient, be more durable, have increased stamina, be more manoeuvrable, travel at higher speeds and for a longer duration.

I can imagine that the governments of the world are investing heavily in the following R&D programmes and if they are not then they should be!

  • Flying Drones
  • Drone Boats
  • Land Drones
  • Drone Sentries
  • Super Computers
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Imaging and Image algorithms
  • Satellite Communications
  • Virtual / Augmented Reality

You see, the combining of the above technologies gives a government a new breed of army. It will be the government that has the fastest super computers, the most globally distributed and resilient satellite communications systems, the best fully weaponised drones and the soldiers trained in the use of VR / AR that will win the next global war.

Using the combination of technologies above would allow 1 soldier to remotely manage a fleet of semi-autonomous weaponised drones. What defines a fleet? Anything upwards of 100+ drones.

Imagine that the fleet is built up of 10 squadrons of 10 drones each. Each squad would have say 2 scout drones, 3 targeting drones, 2 electronic warfare drones and 3 DPS drones (that’s damage per second). The squad would work autonomously under the direction of a human operator. They would work to find any pre-defined target, qualify the target, secure the target and then aggressively engage the target, either autonomously or subject to human approval.

Further imagine that the squads could work together with the other drones in the fleet as part of a dedicated campaign. They could combine their focus on one or multiple targets, working autonomously together to take down an airfield, a bunker, a trench, a cave, a bridge or whatever. Can you imagine being attacked by 100+ drones equipped with lasers, signal jammers, EMP devices, guns and missiles? It would be a formidable force to be reckoned with!

There is a reason why so many eminent scientists of the world are asking for the control of AI development and calling upon a global ban on weaponised drones or robots in the battlefield. Humans would simply not stand a chance!

The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race – Stephen Hawking

There is also a reason why governments of the world need to develop such technologies and test them, refine them and improve them. It’s the same reason why we have nuclear weapons, it’s the same reason why this professor’s game is played every year and mostly fails. There will always be someone that will not do what’s in the best interests of the group, or in this case the human race. We need the deterrent because now that we have already invented the concept, the threat already exists. Some bad person somewhere will use this technology against the innocent, the poor, the children, the elderly and the hospitalised. Why? Someone somewhere always wants more.

On the flip side we also have the defensive side of the equation. If you understand what your enemy is capable of building you can design and build a robust defensive solution. Defensive drones, anti-drone technologies, space based weapons to take out satellite communications and covert Artificial Intelligence should all be considered as strategic solutions for the drone wars.

There is much to consider and much at stake.





Image: Marvel Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy – Edited by Malcolm Ingram

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