Killer drone ‘hunted down a human target’ without being told to

A Turkish military drone hunted a human target in Libya last year without being ordered to do so

After a United Nations commission to block killer robots was shut down in 2018, a new report from the international body now says the Terminator-like drones are now here.

Last year “an autonomous weaponized drone hunted down a human target last year” and attacked them without being specifically ordered to, according to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021 that was published in the New Scientist magazine and the Star.

The March 2020 attack was in Libya and perpetrated by a Kargu-2 quadcopter drone produced by Turkish military tech company STM “during a conflict between Libyan government forces and a breakaway military faction led by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army,” the Star reports, adding: “The Kargu-2 is fitted with an explosive charge and the drone can be directed at a target in a kamikaze attack, detonating on impact.”

The drones were operating in a “highly effective” autonomous mode that required no human controller and the report notes:

“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability” – suggesting the drones attacked on their own.

Zak Kallenborn, at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism in Maryland, said this could be the first time that drones have autonomously attacked humans and raised the alarm.

“How brittle is the object recognition system?” Kallenborn asked in the report. “… how often does it misidentify targets?”

Jack Watling at UK defense think tank Royal United Services Institute, told New Scientist: “This does not show that autonomous weapons would be impossible to regulate,” he says. “But it does show that the discussion continues to be urgent and important. The technology isn’t going to wait for us.”

In August of last year, Human Rights Watch warned of the need for legislation against “killer robots” while NYC mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has called for a global ban on them – something the US and Russia are against.

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