Friday, July 25, 2014

UCLASS’s status as a “killer robot” is still in doubt

The U.S. Navy has successfully fielded the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System  Demonstrator (UCAS-D), a self-piloting jet plane capable of landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier. 

Now it is pursuing the development of the UCLASS, or Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike system, which may or may not qualify as a “killer robot” subject to a proposed ban on such weapons being sought by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

Read more about the reasoning behind this campaign here:

Etopia News reached out to Human Rights Watch, global coordinator for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and asked if they considered UCLASS a “killer robot.”  Here’s what they had to say:

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, i.e., weapons systems that can select and fire on targets without meaningful human intervention. It appears that the UCLASS will have certain autonomous features, such as the ability to take off and land from an aircraft carrier on its own.  But that technology by itself is not problematic for our campaign.  The UCLASS’s categorization as a fully autonomous weapon will ultimately depend on whether or not it has the ability to determine when to use lethal force.  The answer to that question is not clear at this point although the direction the system’s development takes going forward will merit watching.” 

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), who earlier chaired a panel discussion on banning “killer robots” , had no comment on the question of UCLASS’s status in this regard, his office telling Etopia News:

Unfortunately, we have not yet had enough of an opportunity to study that particular system to be able to comment.  I won’t be able to go beyond the materials I’ve already sent you.”


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