The airborne Terminator is coming

14 Jul

It’s a short post today as I spent last night rocking out with the greatest Canadian band of all time – Rush. It was a great show and my arms are a little tired from all the air drumming I did. What can I say, Neil Peart rules!

My pal Kelvin over in the UK has a story in The Globe and Mail that would fit very nicely into Sex, Bombs and Burgers. Military scientists and engineers – sometimes referred to as “boffins” over there, which I love – are working on something called the Taranis, an armed, artificially intelligent UAV named after the Celtic god of thunder. As you can see from the photo, it also looks like something out of Battlestar Galactica. How cool is that?

According to Kelvin’s article:

Taranis could be programmed to fly itself between continents to reach enemy territory. ‘It could then carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activity. … It’s a combat aircraft with weapons so it could strike with precision weapons,’ said Squadron Leader Bruno Wood, the Ministry of Defence spokesman for the Taranis project.

Wood also added that, despite the Taranis being able to pilot itself – unlike other armed UAVs such as the Reaper and Predator, which are remotely controlled – humans would always be involved in any decision to use its weapons. I’m not sure if “always” will really be the case because once you involve a human in any part of the vehicle’s operation, you defeat the purpose of making it automated in the first place. You might as well send up a human pilot in a plane. One expert in the story acknowledges as much and says allowing machines to decide on shooting by themselves may be a decade or so away.

It’ll be interesting to see what sorts of consumer benefits will spin out of this project. BAE, the contractor, has on many occasions put expertise gained from military work toward the larger consumer world, with electric hybrid propulsion systems as just one example.

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Posted by on July 14, 2010 in uav, uk, war


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