Tuesday, November 10, 2009

UAVs as an Instrument of War

The National Defense University is holding a conference on the use of UAVs in war. The conference is December 14-15, 2009 at Fort McNair, D.C. Registration is on-line at: http://www.blogger.com/www.ndu.edu/CTNSP/Event_Registration/register.cfm. There are several interesting topics including:

UAV Roles and Missions
Theme: The number of UAVs and their missions are increasing rapidly. Where should the line be drawn? Is it necessary to have so many different systems and who should operate them?

Modern UAVs: Designs, Payloads, and Capabilities
Theme: While drone platforms are being created to carry bigger ordnance, there are other designs for unmanned fighter planes, robotic flying ICUs, and bio-inspired nano-autonomous systems. How far will this technology go? Will platforms become more autonomous or are there certain capabilities that need to maintain a human face?

Rise of the Machines: The Autonomous Line in the Sand
Theme: With some scientists talking about the possibility of creating super soldiers (“Iron Men”) and others developing adaptive artificial intelligences, the melding of men and machines seems almost inevitable. But should it be? Should the fact that the humans who develop these systems make mistakes give us pause? If we create computer systems that have greater computing power than the human brain, is it possible that we could be replaced? Where is the autonomous line in the sand that we shouldn’t cross?

The HALO Postulate: Is War Becoming A Game?
Is the prevalence of games such as HALO and Call of Duty blurring the lines between reality and simulation for soldiers? With fewer and fewer politicians that have experienced combat, is technology making it easier to use the military option first instead of last?

The Ethical and Legal Implications of Using UAVs
Theme: Where do UAVs fit in the overall American arsenal? Do we have a strategy for integrating these drones into existing protocols in the United States and abroad? Can we really expect robots to tell the difference between combatants and non-combatants when our own soldiers have difficulty doing so? Do these platforms conflict with the Geneva Conventions and the International Committee of the Red Cross’s regulations for weapons of war?

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