The era of truly automated drone killings – using artificial intelligence instead of human guidance to determine strikes – is “years and years away,” an Air Force General responsible for planning drone missions said Wednesday.
“If the focus is on [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], it’s not that hard to automate a mission … frankly it’s not that hard to do,” Lieutenant General Larry James said Wednesday at an event in Washington, D.C. discussing the Air Force’s drone program. “The strike question, where people say you have an automated drone that can go off and shoot something, that’s a different question. I think we’re years and years away, maybe decades away, from having confidence in an automated system that can make those types of decisions.”
He said that media reports and anti-drone groups have turned public sentiment against unmanned technology, which he said is one of many tools the military uses to fight terrorism overseas.
“I think [automated drones] gets traction because it’s science fiction-y. They think a robot can go off and do things on its own and people get enamored with that,” he said. “The reality is they’re not operating on their own, they’re not autonomous … if you look at an F-16 flying and conducting a strike, why is that different from a remotely-piloted aircraft?”