Military robots in general and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in particular are playing an increasingly important role in the armed forces of highly technologized countries. The German government, too, is interested in the acquisition of armed drones. The advantages are evident: Their deployment in dangerous situations saves the lives of one's own soldiers, and their dispassionate precision work provides a strategic advantage. Moreover, UAVs become more and more autonomous, a fact that makes the use of human ressources for control of automated devices superfluous.
On the downside, there are concerns regarding ethical objections and potential escalation scenarios. On the practical level, the use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan mainly by the CIA has already caused problems under international law and has given rise to considerable disagreement among experts in the assessment of the strikes.
In PRIF Report No. 100 "Robot Warriors. Why the Western investment into military robots might backfire" Niklas Schörnig discusses the described ethical and practical reservations to an uncontrolled use and further proliferation of UAVs. He outlines the need to regulate the unchecked build-up of military robots by means of an international arms control policy. He also raises the question, whether arms control can be enforced at all, if those states that have so far been the strongest advocates of international arms control, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, are currently jumping on the drone bandwagon instead of trying to slow it down.
This Report can be ordered directly at PRIF for EUR 10,- and is also available as a PDF for download and free of charge.