The Future of AI Drones

The Future of AI Drones

In 2020, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense uploaded this song on their official YouTube channel. It’s called Atas or Fire and is a heavy metal propaganda song created to hype up Iranian soldiers. As I was listening, something caught my eye in the background. Pay attention to these trucks behind the male and female lead singers. They finally showed the insides. It’s not a rocket, it’s not a missile, it’s a loitering munition, also known as an autonomous self-propelled militarized AI drones.

AI Drone Warfare

It turns out the drone was built by IAI, Israel’s defense manufacturer, and is named Harop. Unfolding after launch, Haropdeploys and flies to the designated area. After providing around 9 hours of aerial observation, the Force Commander, who remotely controls Harop, can destroy a specific enemy target with minimal environmental damage. This brings us to the dangerous subject of AI drones. While most of us imagine AI drones like these small flying machines that can navigate through a dense forest using artificial intelligence, reality is much darker. Elon Musk agrees that AI will propel the use of something called “Assassin drones“.

Autonomous Lethal Drones

The scary thing is, you don’t need new technology to build them. All you would need is a face ID chip used in most smartphones mounted on a standard drone with a small explosive charge. The AI drone could then smash that like button, just like you should if you haven’t done so already. But no, in all seriousness, the drone could perform a grid sweep of any location, automatically select their target, and explode upon impact. What most people don’t seem to realize is that global superpowers are in an arms race to build the most lethal autonomous drone, and the US seems to be winning that fight with Valkyrie.

Valkyrie drone is an autonomous self-launching drone that is supposedly a prototype. The actual system, when completed, will be capable of taking down targets within 3,000 mi, all while piloted by AI. In a few years, the US Army could swarm the skies with thousands upon thousands of Valkyrie drones, keeping one step ahead of military adversaries. With military power supply shifting to China, thanks to the country’s 2 million active army personnel, the only thing the US can do to boost up its 450,000 active personnel is to build autonomous aircraft. The Valkyrie is aiming to do precisely that. It’s designed and manufactured by Kratos, a US arms manufacturer.

Valkyrie is currently the only autonomous jet flying in the world that costs less than $10 million to build. Thanks to the autonomous jet’s curved body, it evades radar detection, despite being 30 ft long with a wingspan of 27 ft. It’s powered by a turbofan engine that can reach speeds of up to Mach 0.85. Plus, it has a 3,00,000 mi range and can climb to an altitude of up to 45,000 ft. In addition, Valkyrie only weighs 25,200 lb. The most dangerous thing about this autonomous jet is it can carry 600 lb of weapons in the cargo bay and 600 lb under each wing, bringing the total to 1,800 lb.

Stealth Jet Innovations

Compared to other stealth jets, Valkyrie doesn’t require a long runway to launch. And don’t forget, the jet is operated by an AI system, giving it full autonomy. As drones become smaller, cheaper, and capable of carrying heavier explosive loads, the US military is establishing the first drone warfare school to avoid attacks like these from happening on the battlefield. The Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems University has a goal of training 1,000 troops per year capable of combating drone attacks. The two most popular weapons used in combating drone attacks are the Smart Shooter and the Drone Buster. The Smart Shooter is a smart op that helps soldiers target fast-moving drones with ease.

For now, the trainees shoot at balloons because it’s more cost-effective. The Drone Buster, on the other hand, is an electronic attack system. Instead of shooting rounds at the drones, the Drone Buster disables drones mid-flight and takes them down. But autonomous drones aren’t even the biggest problem. These new tiny drones are gaining popularity. That bang you just heard was from a tiny drone that delivers a deadly blow by penetrating the skull with a tiny 3G-shaped explosive. The drones use facial recognition, wide-field cameras, and tactical sensors. But they aren’t real; they’re from a dystopian mini-horror movie that was published in 2019 called Slaughterbots.

Autonomous Militarized Drones

The mini-documentary was hoping to raise awareness of the danger of AI-powered attack drones. But this is science fiction; it can’t possibly happen in real life, right? Only it has. The first militarized drone was called STM KRG 2. The drone was used during the Second Lian Civil War in 2001. The drone is capable of finding the target and terminating them without authorization. And yes, this robot was autonomous. As the UN fails to place bans on autonomous militarized drones and robots, the US, specifically San Francisco, is trying to employ robots that are authorized to use force during a violent encounter.

Talon, designed by Foster Miller, has been used in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now, the drone is making its way into American city life, and more and more of these tiny drones are making their way into military operations. Although for the time being, they’re used only for reconnaissance and scouting. One such robot is the Black Hornet Nano, developed by Pro Dynamics AS from Norway. It’s already been used by armed forces from the UK, France, Germany, the US, Poland, and the Netherlands.

Micro Drones and Lethal Birds

The Black Hornet is only 6 by 1 in and weighs only 18 g, including the battery. Speaking of which, the battery allows for only 20 to 25 minutes of runtime, which is why they’re sold in sets of two. While one is deployed scouting the field, the other is charging. An operative can be taught to use the Black Hornet in about 20 seconds, making them extremely deadly. Because they come with a price tag of $200,000 per unit, the company has sold only 3,000 of them so far. And just 5 months ago, Anduril Industries released a video of their newest Road Runner.

It’s bigger than the many drones but it’s extremely fast and capable of intercepting military jets thanks to the twin jet-powered engines. The Road Runner is fully autonomous. Once it latches onto a target and if it fails to intercept the threat, it can return to base using vertical takeoff and landing. Basically, this low-cost drone can take down multimillion-dollar jets. The drone with the largest military potential is the AeroVironment WASP 3. The WASP can be folded and carried inside a backpack because it weighs one lb, has a wingspan of 29 in, and measures 16 in in length.

Autonomous Warfare Dilemma

Because the WASP relies on large wings instead of propellers, it can stay airborne for 45 minutes and allow the operators to scan enemy territory with ease. Powered with AI, the WASP 3 could become practically unstoppable, capable of taking out any target it desires. But this raises a crucial problem: self-guided autonomous rockets like the FGM 148 Javelin, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM are a major are a major threat in Modern Warfare but an even bigger problem facing today’s soldiers is that of ethics and accountability as Michael C Horowitz the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense put it in a 2016 paper regarding the use of Robotics and warfare.

if a machine without intentions or morality makes the decision to take a life and makes us question why the victim lost lost its life, the argument has a moral Force. there is something unnerving about the idea of machines making the decision to take a life. the ultimate goal would not be to ban the use of AI and drones but to create laws that prevent people from committing crimes that could have devastating consequences.