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Just Ordinary Robots by Rinie van Est, Lamber Royakkers

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249
6
aRmED mIlItaRy DRonEs
The Ethics behind Various Degrees of Autonomy
6.1 Focus on Teleoperated and Autonomous Armed Military Robots
Military robot technology has gained momentum. All over the
world, military robots are currently being developed and thousands
of military robots are already deployed during military operations.
According to Peter Singer, this development forms the new “revo-
lution in military aairs” (Singer, 2009b). e U.S. Future Combat
Systems, a program for future weapons and communications sys-
tems costing in excess of U.S. $200 billion—commissioned by the
Pentagon—has had a major impact. Military robots are a focal
point in this program, and many industrialized countries have
become inspired.
What stands out in many defense policy documents on military
robots, such as the Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2009–2034 (U.S.
Department of Defense, 2009), is that scant attention is paid to the
social and ethical aspects of military robotics. As is often the case
with new technological innovations, the emphasis is on promot-
ing technology itself, not on reection on possible, unwanted side
eects. e developers are not inclined to anticipate any negative
aspects, probably from a fear that this would hamper further
developments.
e use of military robots and, in particular, armed military
robots will, however, entail a large number of ethical issues. Now
that military robots are increasingly used in military operations and
we seem to be heading for the next military revolution, many scien-
tic publications have appeared that discuss the possible negative
250 Just ordinAry robots
consequences and the ethical aspects of military robots (see, e.g.,
the special issue on armed military robots of the journal Ethics and
Information Technology [14(2) (2013)], and the edited book Killing
by Remote Control: e Ethics of an Unmanned Military (Strawser,
2013)). ese publications show that armed robots present us with
very dierent social and ethical questions compared to unarmed mil-
itary robots. In order to study the ethical and social consequences
of military robots (see Section 6.5), it is important to distinguish
between them in this chapter.
6.1.1 Unarmed Military Robots
Unarmed military robots have an added value because they perform
dirty, dangerous, and dull tasks to solve operational problems and for
the eective and ecient performance of tasks. Examples include
“around-the-clock” performance, detecting roadside bombs, conduct-
ing reconnaissance sorties, guarding military compounds or camps,
improving situational awareness, and even carrying out potentially
oensive tasks such as raiding a hostile building, where a robot forces
open a door and explores who may be hiding inside. In particular,
these tasks should contribute to increasing the safety of the military
sta. Nowadays, these operational bottlenecks mainly occur in peace
and reconstruction missions, when the armed forces deal with insur-
gents carrying out asymmetric operations, such as the use of roadside
bombs and urban warghting. In urban warghting, it is dicult to
distinguish the ghters from citizens, with the result that civilians are
inextricably part of the battle space and at the same time the insur-
gents are becoming protected from the threats and dangers of war
(Johnson, 2013). Robotics technology may oer a possible solution
in response to these operations by insurgents, since robots, such as
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Micro Air Vehicle or the Global
Hawk (see Box 6.1), can provide military personnel with crucial
information at a distance, information that facilitates better decisions
that are more consistent with the principles of proportionality and
discrimination.
Unarmed military robots provide a positive contribution to the
completion of soldiers’ tasks. Few objections can be made against

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