The falling cost of acquiring drones will see them increasingly used in warfare and surveillance, a leading think tank said today, although it believes citizens are unlikely to accept fully autonomous deadly attacks.
Meanwhile Asian military spending is surging ahead as European defence budgets shrink, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said in its annual assessment of global military capabilities.
The increasing number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their expanding capabilities has given rise to ethical and legal arguments about their use, the IISS said in its 500-page Military Balance 2014 report.
“The proliferation and visibility of UAVs, and their use by armed forces and government agencies, has led to these platforms dominating the debate,” the London-based institute said.
It said the legal and ethical debates included whether attacks could be justified as self-defence and whether they constitute a proportional response to the combatant — or otherwise — status of targeted individuals.
Discussions in Western states have included reservations about the potential use of fully autonomous armed UAVs.
“Even as software-driven artificial intelligence and ‘reasoning’ systems become more advanced, machine-based decision-making as the basis for lethal action will remain a threshold legislatures and the public will likely be unwilling to cross,” the report said.