Occasionally alarming drones stories cross my desk. Up until this morning, this one ranked as #1 most alarming: “‘Flesh-eating robot’ is actually a vegetarian, say inventors.”
In an attempt to reassure the reader, the inventors add this gem of a quote: “The … Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot – known as Eatr for short – does indeed power its “biomass engine” by digesting organic material, but that it is not intended to chomp its way through battlefields of fallen soldiers.” That is just great. Eatr is not intended to devour humans, but as it gobbles up a hedgerow to sate its appetite it obviously may unintentionally scoop up a human or two in the process.
So the Eatr article sat comfortably at number 1 for many weeks until this morning: “US draws up plans for nuclear drones.” The Guardian article states that “American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without re-fuelling.” Remote regions? What, are we going to start flying drones over Western Sahara?
Most of our drones are deployed in Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. By my count a fair number of folks live there. And these drones crash “a lot” says Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK. Do we really want to further infuriate inhabitants of these countries by flying nuclear materials over them?
The stated appeal of nuclearizing drones is to enhance their ability to fly for long periods of time without refueling. But one wonders whether a second motivation is to create a huge disincentive for countries like Iran in shooting down a drone like they did last December.