- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Armed aerial drones will be in the possession of almost every country within a decade, and “it’s too late for the United States to do anything about it,” the military website Defense One reported Tuesday.

Defense One interviewed a number of experts, and the consensus is clear: drone proliferation is coming.

“Once countries like China start exporting these, they’re going to be everywhere really quickly. Within the next 10 years, every country will have these,” Noel Sharkey, a robotics and artificial intelligence professor from the University of Sheffield, told Defense One. “There’s nothing illegal about these unless you use them to attack other countries. Anything you can [legally] do with a fighter jet, you can do with a drone.”


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Sam Brannen, a senior of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ echoed much of Mr. Sharkey’s analysis, telling Defense One that within five years every country could have access to technology that can be categorized, for all intents and purposes, as an armed UAV. The United States and a select few other countries will have the most high-end technology, but he believes it will take a full 10 years for countries to possess heavier aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper.

Peter Singer of Brookings concurred with the sentiment.

“What was once viewed as science fiction, and abnormal, is now normal. … Nations in NATO that said they would never buy drones, and then said they would never use armed drones, are now saying, ‘Actually, we’re going to buy them,’” he told Defense One. “We’ve seen the U.K., France, and Italy go down that pathway. The other NATO states are right behind.”


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Mr. Singer is the author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

After drone proliferation of drones, Mr. Singer indicated that the technological trajectory for the aircraft seems to be full autonomy.

“As you talk about this moving forward, the drones that are sold and used are remotely piloted to be more and more autonomous. As the technology becomes more advanced it becomes easier for people to use,” he told Defense One. “To fly a Predator, you used to need to be a pilot. […] The field of autonomy is going to continue to advance regardless of what happens in the military side.”