Governments around the world and organisations mandate that the human must always be in the loop for sanctioning the employment of weapons from unmanned systems. However, as technology advances the opportunity to develop fully autonomous weapon systems that can replicate human central thinking will become ever more realistic. At least one technology expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence believes that a legal framework to control the development and deployment of so called ‘robot weapons’ may need to be in place in as little as two years if it is to be effective.
Notwithstanding the pace of technological advancement, weapon systems need to comply with the Laws of Armed Conflict and Governments are bound to ensure that all new weapon systems are compliant before system development begins.
But Scientists and Engineers could, with the best of intentions, be developing new technologies which replicate human central thinking activities several years before a Government initiates a weapon system acquisition programme to exploit their innovations.
Engineering organisations will therefore need to have a greater appreciation of the legal and ethical frameworks under which human central thinking technologies will have to be developed. This presentation will outline that the design of future products must be viewed not only from the user requirements, but increasingly under the legal and ethical frameworks which exist, that will be the source of less-well articulated and more esoteric design drivers.
Keith Rigby has spent more than 30 years involved in weapons integration. This has included leading design teams on the Tornado GR4 programme, taking leadership roles in several NATO Industrial Advisory Group studies relating to weapons integration and UAS weaponisation and within the Society of Automotive Engineers Technical Committees, for which he received two prestigious awards. Keith has also acted as an advisor to NATO Air Group 2 and the Air Armament Panel. He was also a leading figure in the BAE Systems ‘Fury’ experimental programme, charged with developing a system which successfully fired a live weapon from a UAS – a UK ‘first’.
Keith is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering & Technology and is also the sole author of the Weapons Integration chapter in the Encyclopaedia of Aerospace Engineering and the text book ‘Aircraft Systems Integration of Air-Launched Weapons’ (both published by Wiley). He is also a BAE Systems Global Engineering Fellow.
Royal Aeronautical Society HQ
No.4 Hamilton Place