Obama administration admits that drone confrontations could unintentionally trigger hostilities

Posted on 15 March 2013 by nsharkey

CNN yesterday reported a confrontation between an Iranian F-4 fighter jet and a predator drone.  But given the November 2012 incident between Iranian fighter jets and a predator, the drones are now routinely accompanied by US military planes. The Iranian F-4 turned away after a verbal warning was issued by one of two US fighter jets guarding the drone.

“Obama administration officials told CNN that the United States is concerned with Iranian intentions in incidents like this and whether such episodes could unintentionally trigger hostilities.”

This is just the kind of confrontation that ICRAC members have warned about happening when autonomous drones are deployed in the near future – drones that once launched will complete their mission without further intervention.

Without a human in the control loop to accept or issue warnings misunderstanding between software systems could lead to inadvertent armed confrontations that could trigger unintended large scale hostilities.

Noel SharkeyPhD, DSc FIET, FBCS CITP FRIN FRSA is Professor of AI and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield and was an EPSRC Senior Media Fellow (2004-2010).

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