The Lanius, which in Latin can refer to butcher birds, represents a new generation of drones: agile, equipped with artificial intelligence and capable of spotting and killing. The machine is based on the design of racing drones, which allows it to maneuver in tight spaces, such as alleys and small buildings.
The company’s promotional content touts its updates. After being sent into battle, Lanius’ algorithm can map the scene and scan people, differentiating enemies from allies – sending all that data back to soldiers who can then simply press a button to attack or kill whoever they want. want.
For weapon critics, this represents a nightmare scenario, one that could alter the dynamics of warfare.
“This is extremely concerning,” said Catherine Connolly, a weapons expert at Stop Killer Robots, a weapons advocacy group. “It’s basically about letting the machine decide whether you live or die if we remove the human control element for that.”
Representatives for Elbit Systems did not return a request for comment.
The use of drones in warfare has become commonplace. The U.S. drone arsenal is responsible for killing enemies and civilians in the Middle East. In Russia’s war on Ukraine, Moscow has been seen using a killer drone that can dive into targets, destroying them without warning.
Drones, large and small, have had an impact on warfare. Notably, Ukraine’s use of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 – a drone the size of a small plane and equipped with laser-guided missiles – has wreaked havoc on Russian tanks and trucks.
For arms manufacturers, this is an attractive target.
Elbit Systems, headquartered in Haifa, Israel, states in promotional content his Lanius is equipped with features that would be especially useful in urban warfare situations, where troops cannot see their enemy well.
According to the drone Technical sheet, the drone is palm-sized, approximately 11 inches by 6 inches. It has a top speed of 45 miles per hour. It can fly for approximately 7 minutes and has the ability to carry lethal and non-lethal materials. It’s unclear how deadly materials would be.
The drone is equipped with WiFi and radio technology for communication. It can maneuver using GPS navigation, and the drone’s on-board artificial intelligence system can scan and map urban battle spaces, providing soldiers with a 3D map of its surroundings.
The drone’s autonomous software helps with “enemy detection and classification”, according to the company, useful for “lethal ambush”.
The company notes that the drone cannot decide to kill someone on its own and needs a “human in the loop” to make the decision and pull the trigger.
Despite this, Connolly of Stop Killer Robots has many concerns.
The feature requiring humans to be involved in the decision to kill can probably be overwhelmed, she says. “Changing that would probably just require a software upgrade,” Connolly added. “There’s…absolutely nothing to stop the manufacturer from doing this or from a lawyer or an agent buying these systems asking them to do it.”
The Lanius’ ability to use algorithms to tell enemies from allies seems ominous, she said. The general public should know how the drone distinguishes between combatant and civilian, what data the system’s algorithm is trained on to make these calls, which has labeled the data used and what type of behavior is reported as making someone appear threatening, she said.
“It’s basically about showing that systems can now do anything but decide, using an algorithm… to take human life,” she said.