(Arstechnica) At the National Defense Industrial Association's Ground Robotics Capabilities conference on Thursday, Department of Defense officials discussed the possibility of the US military fielding autonomous armed robots to fight alongside troops or act on their own, particularly in "highly competitive, highly contested space" behind enemy lines. "We have to think about what autonomous kinetic options really look like," said Melissa L. Flagg, a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the DOD's Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Directorate.
That thinking is still in its early stages, Flagg said. But military officials are looking hard at the possibility of developing robotic systems that are capable of acting on their own if remote control is cut off and decisions must be made on when to deploy a weapon—whether it's an armed drone dropping a bomb or launching a missile or a ground robot firing weapons. "These are hard questions, and a lot of people outside of us tech guys are thinking about it, talking about it, engaging in what we can and can't do," she said. "That's important. We need to understand and know that it doesn't necessarily need to happen, but we also have to put the options on the table because we are the worst-case scenario guys."