A video called “Slaughterbots” shows the future of autonomous drone weaponry, which can track and kill targets without any human assistance.
A group called Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons is behind the fictional “Slaughterbots” video. The group’s goal is to raise awareness about autonomous drone weaponry, and the potential use of killer robots in the future.
The video was posted on YouTube in November 2017, and viewers had a lot of questions about autonomous drone weaponry. It opens with a man on a stage in an auditorium giving a presentation about a drone that’s small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. The drone flies around the auditorium and uses facial recognition technology to identify a mannequin on the stage. It then delivers a lethal “kill shot” to the mannequin’s forehead at close range.
The video was viewed more than 2.1 million times in a little over a month. Many viewers are left wondering if autonomous drone weaponry shown in the video is real. And the answer is no. At the beginning of the video a URL appears: stratoenergetics.com. The site has a lot of information about drone weaponry and the “benefits” of killer robots. However, after navigating to a FAQ, it becomes clear that it’s all part of an elaborate campaign to raise awareness about autonomous weapons:
Q: Is this website for real?
A: No, but this is a glimpse of where the current trajectory of automation in weapons systems is likely to take us, unless such weapons are banned or curtailed by international agreement. If you don’t like what you see, get involved.
A link redirects readers to the Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons homepage. There, visitors are encouraged to share the video, to sign a petition, and to contact their elected officials to voice opposition to drone weaponry.
There have been lots of credible reports about tiny drones that can spy on, or even terminate, military targets. However, due to limited public information available about the technology, it’s hard to say what it is or isn’t capable of.
In 2015, we investigated rumors about a insect drone that the military was developing to spy on and potentially kill high-level targets. We found that the initiative, known as Project Anubis, was real. However, it wasn’t not clear how far along in development it was, or if it would ever be used in real-world situations. And there’s on big difference between the insect drone and the slaughterbots. Insect drones, as far as we could tell, were controlled by humans. Slaughterbots were autonomous.
In January 2017, however, 6o Minutes reported on new autonomous drone technology being developed by the military called “Perdix.” Swarms of the autonomous drones could be used to carryout a range of missions. They could serve as decoys to confuse air defense systems, to jam radars with onboard electronic transmitters, and to spy on or track targets using onboard camera equipment. There was no indication in that report, however, that the autonomous drones were outfitted with weapons or facial recognition technology.
In the end, it’s clear that autonomous drones are a major part of military plans going forward. However, the “Slaughterbots” video about drone weaponry isn’t real, and there’s been no public indication that that technology exists today.
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