Tuesday, April 03, 2007

WAR - Becoming a Video Game??

The superpowers in the world have long been interested in the development of defense technology to gain that competitive edge over other nations, even if it is just psychological. This pressing need for supremacy has seen funding to the tune of billions of dollars and has yielded many scientific marvels. A prime example is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

A UAV is a much smaller aircraft without a pilot onboard. These robots can be remote controlled or given autonomous control based on pre-programmed flight plans or more complex dynamic automation systems. UAVs are currently used in a number of military roles, including reconnaissance and attack. The degree of autonomy of such aircrafts has been gradually increasing over the years ever since the first UAV was introduced in the 1950s. The degree of autonomy is contingent on areas like sensor fusion, motion planning, communications, trajectory generations, task scheduling and cooperative tactics. As is the case with most new inventions, the UAV can be used for a number of productive and peaceful missions but its primary application has always been in the defense sector. The US has likely invested the most in UAVs and the US Department of Defense has classified it as UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System). The military role of UAS is growing at unprecedented rates. In 2005, tactical and theater level unmanned aircraft (UA) alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

The UAV will definitely save many lives if employed in a combat situation and that was the idea behind its inception. While this invention is a great success from a scientific point of view, it adds a host of moral dilemmas. Since such aircrafts are unmanned, there is no human life factor to consider in a hostile situation, thus making it easier to go to war. Also we are still a long way off from getting robots to simulate human emotions and that is something that there is simply no substitute for. If the UAV continues development at the current rate than it wouldn't be long before it is used extensively not just for surveillance, but for combat also. We can only hope that this will not lead to more conflict between the nations as the all of mankind will have to bear the burden. The futility of war is probably best highlighted by the quote 'War seldom determines who is right, only who is left.'


Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/uav.htm

Karthik Ramaswamy U037067L


dars.security said...

My opinion is that Isreal's UAV industry is just as good, if not better than that of the US. Especially from the experiences they gained fighting in the lebanon war.

It's hard to judge the amount of lives saved. On one hand, it's easier for one party to go to war since it will incur less casualties. (more lives lost) On the other hand, you get better precision using UAVs (less civilian casualties) and less pilots losts.

I'm curious as to why you mentioned the development of emotions. I don't particularly see the link.

If you're refering to robots developing the sentience of whether they should kill a person... I believe we're a far long way from allowing UAVs roam free without a human controller. At the moment, all UAVs have a human controller. And even if we do without a controller, it would be many decades more before we allow the firing of a weapon without a human input.

UAVs are definitely the way to go for AIR warfare though. They are cheaper. No need for a pilot, hence they are able to perform manuevers that are beyond the limits that a human body can take. (pulling 15Gs for example) Smaller in size, hence harder to detect on radar.

Chen ZhaoLin

Assistive said...

I believe there are pros and cons after every invention , and it depends on how one harnesses it. For example, problems of protecting intellectual property has evolved due to the birth of internet and subsequent advancements like mp3s and downloading of music from the internet. But then again ,without internet , lives would have been more inconvenient and knowledge wouldn't have been so easily seeked from all parts of the world. Before using UAV for survillience missions , unmanned vehicles has been to space for missions as it would have been too dangerous to send a human over. Thus, i believe UAVs could do good and it depends on something as flexible as the human mind ,and not rigid robots, to decide how to use it , be it to do good or harm.

from Tan Sze Sze Vivian

Home said...

Lin Changjie U036185J

What Karthik was referring to as emotions could be the one mentioned in the movie "Stealth", which is about some pilots who embark on a mission of to neutralize an out-of-control prototype drone fighter plane equipped with artificial intelligence which overwrote all human control. The movie may sound far fetched but i think it is something worth thinking about as AI becomes an integral part of our lives.

In any case, no doubt the UAV is effective in war, war itself is never a solution.

dars.security said...


Thanks for all you comments. I realize this might be quite a controversial topic. ZhaoLin, I do agree that Israel is one of the pioneers in UAV technology. However the US still had over 60% of the market share as of 2006 and this expected to rise about five to ten percent over the next ten years. The reason I presented the moral dilemma was simply because it becomes much easier to go to war and I feel that simply should not be the case. For example, while lesser lives might be lost at war with the UAVs, they would be one of the biggest reasons the war was resorted to in the first place. I also agree that there are still no completely autonomous UAVs and that’s why I compared war to a video game. I do disagree that UAVs are the way to go for air combat based on the reasons stated above. However, as Vivian also mentioned, their use for communications and exploration can be extremely beneficial for us. I must also admit that it was the movie Stealth that first aroused my interest in this subject and as far as television goes a UAV was also featured in a recent episode of 24 :-P.

Cheers and keep posting,

dars.security said...

well... US being the biggest defence spender... i would expect their own UAVs to corner the market. (but this is not really important actually. haha. no need to argue about it)

I think you misunderstood my question as well. because in your entry, you mentioned that :

Also we are still a long way off from getting robots to simulate human emotions and that is something that there is simply no substitute for

Why do you want emotions in a UAV? (sorry.. i didn't watch stealth)

Chen ZhaoLin U036701H

dars.security said...

UAV may be useful in different application. However, would this present a situation where the country with more wealth and higher technology go on to conquer the world as they would then suffer no loss of lives?

Lai Sing Zie

dars.security said...

Oh ok. What I meant from that statement was that if in a hostile situation, even the best programming in the world does not come close to compensating for the human instinct. Irrespective of how strong the orders are, there still would be decision making on the spot for the fighter pilots. Hence I felt even if in the future the UAVs were sufficiently autonomous to be employed in such a situation, they would be lackng in that aspect.

Also as Sing Jie mentioned, if there is such a situation where the strong power tries to mount an offensive, in our present nuclear world I feel casualities will be suffered all around. Also this will be much more than we could possibly recover from.


Assistive said...

After reading the blog i believe that UAVs will be a crucial part of any war in the future but are there any applications of the UAV outside war zones.

dars.security said...


UAVs can have a variety of non military applications. Some of them are:

1. Border interdiction. Patrol of the borders by aerial platforms.

2. Search and rescue. Looking for survivors from shipwrecks, aircraft accidents etc.

3. Wild fire suppression. UAVs equipped with infrared sensors can detect fire in forests and notify the fire brigade on time.

4. Communications relay. High altitude long endurance UAVs can be used as satellites.

5. Law enforcement. VTOL UAVs can take the role of police helicopters in a more cost effective way.

6. Disaster and emergency management. Aerial platforms with cameras can provide real time surveillance in hazardous situations such as earthquakes.

7. Research. Scientific research of any nature (environmental, atmospheric,archaeological, pollution etc) can be carried out by UAVs equipped with the appropriate payloads.

8. Industrial applications. Such
applications can be crops spraying,
nuclear factory surveillance, surveillance of pipelines etc.

dars.security said...

btw that last one was from me. :P