December 14, 2012

Welcome to the Robotics Revolution

Peter Singer, Brookings Institute


AP Photo

While unmanned systems have a long history, dating back to Da Vinci’s designs for a robotic knight and including things like German remote-controlled torpedo boats in the First World War, it wasn’t until just a decade ago that they truly took off in war. Advances in technology made unmanned systems more usable, especially through the incorporation of GPS technology that allowed such systems to locate themselves in the world. At the same time, the new conflicts that followed 9/11 drove demand. When US forces first went into Afghanistan, the U.S. military had only a handful of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, also called “remotely piloted aircraft” or, more colloquially, “drones”) in the air, none of them armed, and zero on the ground. Now it has a force...

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