Sunday, 19 Sep 2021

Self-learning military robot can track targets and fire with machine guns

A terrifying unmanned robot equipped with powerful machine guns has been unveiled by an Israeli defence contractor.

REX MKII, part of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, announced the feat of drone engineering on Monday and is set to showcase the robot at the Defence and Security System International arms trade show in London this week.

Aerospace Industries' subsidiary, ELTA Systems, have created several unmanned military vehicles in the past 15 years, but this is by far the most advanced.

There is heated debate in military circles about semi-autonomous robots of this type. Some claim that they offer unparalleled protection to troops on the ground whereas others fear the possibility of machines making life-or-death decisions.

This four-wheel-drive robot is suited with dual machine guns, cameras, and censors, and will be operated by a tablet.

It is also multi-purpose, not only able to attack targets but capable of gathering intelligence and shuttling troops or supplies around the battlefield.

Even more terrifying is the fact that it can perform some of these functions autonomously, including movement and surveillance.

Yonni Gedj, an operational expert in the company’s robotics division, explained: "With every mission, the device collects more data which it then learns from for future missions."

The company have dismissed concerns that the machine could decide to shoot targets, possibly the wrong ones, by itself. They are not offering this capability to buyers despite eerily admitting that it exists.

Rani Avni, deputy head of the company’s autonomous systems division, said: "It is possible to make the weapon itself also autonomous, however, it is a decision of the user today. The maturity of the system or the user is not there yet."

Others are not too convinced by the company's assurances.

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Bonnie Docherty, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, fears such weaponry as it can't tell the difference between combatants and civilians in the same way that we can. She called for fully automated weapons to be banned under international law in 2012.

Now she said: "Machines cannot understand the value of human life, which in essence undermines human dignity and violates human rights laws."

Unmanned robots and drone technologies are becoming increasingly common in warfare, sometimes performing non-combative tasks but sometimes being used to launch strikes.

The Israeli military currently uses a smaller machine, the Jaguar, to enforce its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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