Robyn Williams: Robots, as you know, are now at war. Let’s join Peter Hadfield at Farnborough where the future is combat.
Film audio [archival]: Fighter pilot. The words convey something of the spirit that lies in our squadrons…
Peter Hadfield: In aerial combat, the fighter pilot has always been front and centre. This UK government film from the 1940s lionises the pilots who were fighting in the Battle of Britain. But the particular war within Ukraine has highlighted a contentious question; could artificial intelligence soon make jet fighter pilots obsolete?
Cheers go up from Ukrainian troops as another expensive Russian jet plus its pilot are shot down by something as simple as the shoulder-held missile launcher. Despite overwhelming air superiority, the Russian Air Force offers been reluctant to risk manned planes on the particular battlefield. This particular has become a war associated with UAS, unmanned aerial systems, from small reconnaissance drones that a person can buy in a toy shop for a couple of hundred bucks, to unmanned planes costing hundreds of thousands associated with dollars. And now, this could be the next step in that technology.
Film sound: This Loyal Wingman-style drone was designed to assist and escort F-22 and F-35 aircraft during combat missions, and can carry weapons, fire them and deploy surveillance techniques.
Philip Hadfield: Valkyrie is one of a new generation associated with unmanned aircraft that looks and performs more like piloted fighter-bombers than the little propeller driven drones we are used to seeing over the skies of Ukraine. This new generation includes the Ghost Bat, a collaboration between Australia and Boeing. Nicknamed the particular Loyal Wingman, it’s hard to tell the difference between these large jet-powered drones and the fighter planes they fly alongside. Some of the specifications of the Ghost Bat haven’t been disclosed, but Valkyrie may fly at over 1, 000 kilometres an hour, with a quarter of a tonne weapons payload.
Jeff Herro: My name is Jeff Herro, I’m the senior vice president associated with business development and strategy for Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems. Valkyrie is significantly different and I think that we are actually an industry leader in what we are doing. We have focused on providing an affordable, significantly high-performance tactical drone to the battle fighter. Our real claim to fame is affordability and runway independence, while sustaining significant performance characteristics.
Peter Hadfield: And you can deliver a lot more to the particular battlefield than existing drones can, you can go faster, you can carry more weight.
Shaun Herro: Yes, we proceed faster, farther, we can fly higher, not compared to the surveillance-type drones because we’re not designed that way, but more importantly we designed our plane, you can look at this aircraft…in fact it’s behind me in this picture, you can look at that will aircraft plus say, huh, that appears like a pretty survivable airplane. So, you know, in the fights of the future, they’re not going to be throwing rocks. So we are going to have to be able to engage in contested airspace, survive to accomplish the mission and come home, or maybe not come home, maybe achieve the objective but the particular system is inexpensive enough that if you don’t come home, it was worth the investment in what we spent.
Peter Hadfield: It seems that you’ve got the plane here that could operate as a fighter, as a ground attack aeroplanes but without the initial. Are a person that step closer to basically becoming unmanned?
Rob Herro: Well, we definitely are, we’ve designed the system to be multi-mission capable. You don’t even have in order to put some of these manned assets in harm’s way, at least as early as you might have to do in the past. It’s a change in how we are going to affect war in the future.
Peter Hadfield: What technological difficulties did you have to overcome? Because there’s not many people doing exactly what you perform, so why is it so technologically difficult to get to this step?
Jeff Herro: A big part associated with this is the value part, and in our particular case our legacy was building very top of the line target drones. We developed systems that were designed from your onset to become affordable because they were going to become used as targets, they were going in order to be chance at. From a performance perspective, those same systems had to have the characteristics of the particular enemy.
Peter Hadfield: So in other words it’s not that will the technology itself was not something other companies could develop, but you have been able to do this, in order to make this practical, to make it work plus to make it affordable, that’s really the difference.
Jeff Herro: It is a primary difference, and in doing so we possess always had the philosophy, in target drones, they don’t last forever.
Peter Hadfield: I’m at the Raytheon Technology stand here at Farnborough plus I’m standing in front of the Jeep that is fitted with a laser weapon which may be fired at drones and do a lot of serious damage, and the idea is that it just points a laser in them plus shoots all of them out of the sky, it provides a tracking mechanism because well. I can see the particular results right here as well, might got a couple of drones which were used in experiments and have already been shot down by this laser system, and one side associated with them will be seriously burned, it looks as though someone has taken the blowtorch to it, and which enough in order to knock out the electronics and destroy the jingle. It’s a system which is so light this can end up being quite easily mounted on the back of a Jeep.
Raytheon has a computer animation showing how small, cheap drones can be knocked out of the atmosphere at a very high rate, thanks to an automated detection plus guidance program that locks the laser onto its target inside a matter of milliseconds. Once again it’s synthetic intelligence that will dominates.
For the next generation of larger drones, such as Valkyrie or Ghost Softball bat, Raytheon has a similar autonomous system using missiles. So perhaps the best way in order to describe these types of unmanned systems is not really just that they are affordable, but they are expendable. Does that mean fliers will eventually become outdated, and are all of us already seeing the beginnings of that within Ukraine? I asked Shaun Herro of Kratos:
The Russian Air flow Force was considered to have been so overwhelmingly superior it would crush the Ukrainian Air Force, but what they seem to be doing is usually staying within Russian borders and letting fly missiles at great distance because they are thus concerned about the unmanned systems that are coming up against them. It is definitely that a simplistic look at…?
Rob Herro: We do think that the Ukrainians have done the remarkable amount with remarkably little so far. I mean, I think that the world is watching this with great interest, and I actually think also that if you don’t have got to expose…we use the word ‘exquisite’ or even ‘manned’ property to certain threats, why would you? Therefore my guess is that will they’ve made the assessment that they don’t have to do right now. The thing is this; to what extent will the fight of the particular future use this kind associated with technology, that is the real question.
Peter Hadfield: So carry out we really need pilots in aircraft, are we moving towards the stage now where we can do without all of them completely, and this is a step towards that?
Jeff Herro: That’s a highly controversial. And although I’m totally in a company that builds only UAS, unmanned air flow systems, I don’t think all of us are ready yet, We don’t think the world is ready yet for that. Now, in the small scales that a person read about within the press and some from the smaller systems that will are deployed in the Ukraine conflict, for example , that you learn about, and in other places, yes, the small drones, sure, gowns one thing. It can another thing completely to have a highly capable battle fighting UCAV effectively, essentially it goes prosecutes the particular war. I actually don’t believe we all are ready for that yet and I don’t know that will society can be looking forward to that yet.
Peter Hadfield: What are the obstacles to that?
Jeff Herro: There are some true ethical questions about turning over decisions of life and death to a machine. And you hear within the push, and there is a lot of work being done for autonomy plus for artificial intelligence. And the truth of the matter is there is a difference between autonomy and synthetic intelligence. If you get in order to true AI, that means that will the strategy is learning itself and then going to make choices based on exactly what it learned. A lot of effort goes into making decisions in the kill chain when you battle wars, and that’s a lot of responsibility. No country takes that lightly, a minimum of I hope they don’t. We know that will Australia doesn’t, and we all as a company certainly avoid.
Philip Hadfield: Do you believe that day will ever come? We’re looking decades ahead to when AI improves in order to the extent that might happen?
Jeff Herro: I do. I may know that I will see it happen but I actually do think that there is the time within the future…I mean buggy whips went away too and buggies went away and now we have cars plus then we had really fast cars and we have planes, so will that occur? Probably. I’m not sure I want to be around to see it, I kind of like the human factor in this particular thing. And you talked about the fact that humans can make mistakes. The particular fact is certainly machines create mistakes. I mean, think regarding that; if it’s artificial intelligence, what if it discovered the wrong lesson and then it makes the wrong decision? There’s a lot of ethical questions about this, and which is why whenever certain missions are accomplished by all war fighters, there’s a chain of command plus certain people have rules of engagement that decide who gets to do what.
Peter Hadfield: With regard to The Science Show , I’m Philip Hadfield in Farnborough, UK.
Robyn Williams: Plus Peter Hadfield was illustrating that honest conflict along with AI that Professor Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales has argued so eloquently, the dangers of robots at war taking choices, or even automated programs running the corporation or prison. Is actually all within Professor Walsh’s new book Machines Behaving Badly: The Morality associated with AI .