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What should be Done to Prevent Using Drones as a New Weapon?

20 Aug 2018

The need for security has compelled the development of various apparatus that would address this matter. Governments have engaged in innovations that would make them standout in matters security. This saw the invention of drones to counter the increasing terrorism activities that have caused a lot of damage to the universe. And the advancement of this technology is something that most governments have focused on.

Initially heralded as revolutionary surveillance instruments, drones have evolved into the most fearsome military weapons thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). The trend is unlikely to ebb soon unless drastic measures are taken. The Pentagon is at different stages of developing different types of military drones - including drone swarms driven by AI. Some were successfully deployed in the field when a Russian airbase in Syria was attacked.

Military personnel have expressed concerns about the capacity of human-directed weapons systems to deal with innumerable swarms of drones. The unmanned aerial weapons can materialize out of nowhere to attack a compound or a moving truck with pinpoint precision. Efforts are ongoing to make drones even more lethal.

The concept of armed drones drives the weaponizing of consumer drones, a practice that poses substantial security threats in the future.

Unfathomable dangers

So far, lethal, weaponized drones have been used by the military. This is unlikely to remain the case in the near future. Weapons such as Hellfire missiles were out of reach of individuals because a single one costs $100,000. Using it to attack small and inexpensive targets such as a pick-up truck is not economical even for the military.

However, Textron, a company contracted by the US military, revealed a new weaponized drone, the Fury, which is cost effective and affordable. The new weapon is thought to cost only a fraction of the Hellfire missile.

The affordability of such AI drones is a cause for concern because their use is not limited to the military. The conflict in Syria has served to put these concerns into perspective. There are reports about the persistent use of drones by militants on the battlefield in Syria. The drones thought to belong to an 'Islamist faction' targeted the Russian airbases before being foiled by the Russian forces.

Under the circumstances, perpetrators do not need advanced drones used by the military. Even the simplest drone can be improved and an explosive device attached. The drone and the device can be controlled and detonated remotely. This improvised system can be used to attack targets with precision.

The most inherent danger is its potential to replace suicide bombers or its use for mass shootings.

How to prevent the dangers?

Before adopting the military approach of obsession with stopping the actual drone weapon, alternative preemptive measures that ensure it does not come to that are necessary. Why? There are concerns that no one actually knows how to stop these new weapons.

The recent move by the administration of Donald Trump to introduce a new set of policies in relation to the export of military drones is commendable. However, the policies are informed by a competitive mindset and the need to militarize allies to keep Russia and China at bay. The policies fall short in the regulation of non-military drones. In fact, the new policies could potentially place drones in the hands of more militant groups and individuals.

Weaponizing of consumer drones is what is of major concern to all stakeholders. Over 100 CEOs of AI and robotics have warned about the imminent repurpose of consumer drones to build lethal weapons they term as "killer robots".

The practice is compared to opening a "Pandora Box" and has the potential to alter war forever. Few countries have developed armed drones, implying the focus should be on consumer drones. A set of norms and practices to coordinate the use of drones is mandatory under the circumstances. However, the authorities can only do much to stop individuals from weaponizing their drones.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and this implies that counter systems may prove to be the most effective strategy to prevent the use of drones as new weapons. The measures to be adopted, which include the use of laser weapons, cyber rifles, wireless detection systems, net guns, and early warning systems can be found here.


The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail info@alliancesouthasia.org

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