Drones: Future of War and New Paradigm of Warfare
We are living in the age of modern warfare, with artificial intelligence powered robots and unmanned aerial vehicles. While remote-controlled drones had been used in times of war since World War II, they were seriously revolutionized since 1995. We analyzed the evolution of military drones and came to the conclusion that the greatest impact of drones will be felt in the future.
In 1995, during U.N. peacekeeping mission in Hungary, U.S. Air Force used the Gnat, a remotely piloted glider, developed by the San Diego defense contractor General Atomics, which carried something new: video cameras. The Gnat gave commanders a 60-mile panorama from a platform that could stay airborne more or less permanently, with vehicles flown in 12-hour shifts. Later it was renamed as Predator, it quickly became the U.S. military’s preferred surveillance tool.
The Predator was used to locate Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2000, after Al Qaeda had been tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. But efforts to act on that intelligence were frustrated by the complexities of launching a raid and by concerns about the risks to U.S. troops and civilians. The U.S. Army’s drone armada alone has expanded from 54 drones in October 2001, when U.S. combat operations began in Afghanistan, to more than 4,000 drones performing surveillance, reconnaissance and attack missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Technological advancements over the past two centuries have largely taken place as by-products of military solutions to make warfare smarter, more accurate and more lethal. Drone warfare is one of the big success stories of machines taking over the more dangerous tasks in a battlefield while the pilots are brought into a strange dystopian-utopian world of killing people from behind an office desk that is inside a military base thousands of miles away. Drones today are seen as the ace of spades in military arsenals, specifically with the United States, which has used them for targeted killings in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan.
Military and intelligence units have become increasingly interested in smaller drones that can improve reconnaissance and surveillance operations. Some of these drones are hand launched while others are even smaller and resemble birds and insects. The Air Force Research Laboratory is dedicated to the development and testing of micro air vehicles (MAVs). Less than 0.6 meters in length, a MAV is capable of operating below rooftop level in an urban environment. It may have a fixed wing, rotary wing (helicopter), flapping wing or even no wings.
The Air Force has been developing MAVs as a way of getting in close on enemy fighters, although such small devices are difficult to control. DARPA contracted the AeroVironment to design and build a flying prototype “hummingbird-like” aircraft for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program.
Now researchers have developed an artificial intelligence that can defeat human pilots in combat and is designed for drones. ALPHA was tested in simulations and the results have been published in the Journal of Defense Management. The first versions beat AI systems previously used by the US Air Force Research Lab. The AI is based on an algorithm created at the University of Cincinnati. ALPHA can currently process sensor data and plan combat moves for four drones in less than a millisecond, or over 250 times faster than the eye can blink — reaction times far beyond human abilities.
Instead of using numbers for precise parameters, ALPHA’s algorithms are based on language or ‘fuzzy logic’ — it makes decisions via if-then rules. That reduces the number of branches in a decision-making tree, which lowers the computing power required to find the best strategy. It is also based on a genetic algorithm — rules inspired by how genes are inherited from one generation to the next.
Drones came into first use after World War II. Since then, the number of drones in military use increased substantially enough that the New York Time decided to refer to it as a new paradigm for warfare.The United States has put artificial intelligence at the center of its defense. Once drones come loaded with sophisticated AI and voice-recognition technology, humans won’t have to guide them.
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