Fears are growing that the snowballing production of deadly autonomous weapons could result in terrorist attacks and airports being held to ransom by individuals and extremist groups.
China is already “aggressively” exporting the most sophisticated killer drones and pilotless aircraft to Asia, Africa and combat zones in the Middle East.
But Pentagon defence expert and ex-US Army Ranger Paul Scharre pointed out that it takes just seconds for anyone to find all the software and pieces needed to build your own weaponised drone.
You can even download trained neural networks for free which would enable the drone to identify targets and make decisions on its own.
DRONES CAN ‘MAKE DECISIONS ON THEIR OWN’
Inspired by human brains, these computing systems are able to learn and operate using previous experience – with no human action required.
YouTube insists it removes content which provides instructional modification or transformation of a firearm in order to make it more dangerous or deadly.
But the ease at which autonomous drone technology is available for the masses is sparking fears among AI and defence experts across the world.
Especially since Gatwick Airport was disrupted for more than three days over Christmas last year due to unauthorised drone activity.
Mr Scharre, the director of the national security program at the Center for a New American Security, told SunOnline: “It’s a terrifying reality that we’re going to have to confront.
“People can build simple autonomous weapons and carrier weapons for terrorist attacks form their garage.
“We’ve already seen in the UK and US that drones are so ubiquitous that we have to be concerned about the threat from drones disrupting air travel.
‘WE NEED TO PREPARE’
“That’s only going to become more challenging as more people build autonomous drones and we need to prepare for that.”
The defence expert, who wrote Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, said governments need to start thinking intelligently about counter measures.
“It is a very real security challenge and we need to be about to defend effectively against these drones,” he said.
“We can’t live in a world where one individual can shut down airports or air traffic.
“We need to manage the possibility of threats in third dimension – airports have great security on the ground, but drones just leap over that.”
Professor Noel Sharkey, who is co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, shares this view.
AIRPORTS AND ARENAS ‘VULNERABLE’ TO ATTACK
He raised concerns that airports, concert venues, sports stadiums and government buildings in the UK are vulnerable to imminent attack from drone swarms and autonomous weapons.
The AI professor said experts have been warning the government about the “massive hole in our security” since 2007.
“This is what disturbed me about Gatwick – the absolute lack of preparedness,” he told the SunOnline.
“What I’m mainly concerned about is the possibility of a terror attack as ISIS already has this technology.
“We cannot be playing catch up like this. Our government security is not prepared.”
‘NO DEFENCE’ AGAINST DRONE SWARMS
Perhaps most worryingly, he claims Britain has no effective defence against swarms of drones.
Both the US and China have been working on swarms of small aircraft (more than 100) that can be controlled by one or a few people or work in autonomous mode.
“You might be able to disrupt, or shoot down a few drones, but if there’s a whole swarm some of them will get through,” Professor Sharkey said.
“There’s currently no way to block them”.
He also voiced fears that these drones could be used to attack arenas and football matches and they could even unleash chemicals.
Aviation Minister Liz Sugg said: “Flying drones illegally puts others at risk. The law is clear that these are serious criminal acts that hold lengthy prison sentences.
“The Government is further strengthening the law by extending the no-fly zone around airports, and from November all drone users must be registered and tested – which will help hold illegal drone users to account.”
‘NO FLY ZONES’ WIDENED
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this month meant to spur the development and regulation of artificial intelligence.
The order aimed to improve access to the cloud computing services and data needed to build AI systems and promote cooperation with foreign powers.
It came amid warnings over China unleashing lethal fully autonomous drones that can carry out targeted military strikes.
US national security think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) said in a report that Chinese officials see this AI ‘arms race’ as a threat to global peace.
Gregory C Allen, the author of the report, said China is rushing to integrate ever more sophisticated artificial intelligence into weapons and military equipment.
One example is the Blowfish A2 drone, which China exports internationally and which Mr Allen says is advertised as being capable of “full autonomy all the way up to targeted strikes.”
CHINA UNLEASHING SOPHISTICATED DRONES
The Blowfish A2 “autonomously performs complex combat missions, including fixed-point timing detection and fixed-range reconnaissance, and targeted precision strikes.”
Depending on customer preferences, Chinese military drone manufacturer Ziyan offers to equip Blowfish A2 with either missiles or machine guns.
Mr Allen wrote: “Though many current generation drones are primarily remotely operated, Chinese officials generally expect drones and military robotics to feature ever more extensive AI and autonomous capabilities in the future.
“Chinese weapons manufacturers already are selling armed drones with significant amounts of combat autonomy.”
RUSSIA’S ‘KAMIKAZE DRONE’
Russia has also unveiled a new and deadly kamikaze drone after it “successfully completed” trials.
The latest precision weapon from arms giant Kalashnikov “delivers explosives to any terrain, bypassing systems of air defence”.
The KYB (Cube) drone – with a maximum flying time of just 30 minutes – was showcased for the first time at the international IBEX arms exhibition in Dubai.
A video shows the unmanned military flying machine exploding as it reaches its target.
The Russian drone flies at speeds of between 50 and 80 mph and can carry a payload of explosives up to 6.6lbs, say its manufacturers.
“This is an extremely precise and very effective weapon, incredibly hard to fight by traditional air defence systems,” said Sergey Chemezov, head of Rostec, a Russian state giant in charge of development strategic arms companies.
“The explosive can be delivered to target regardless of how well hidden it is.”
It operations “regardless of hidden terrains, at both high and low altitude”, he said.