Lanius, in Latin that may refer to butchers, represents a new generation of drone: nimble, equipped with artificial intelligence, and able to spy and kill. The device is based on the design of a racing drone, which allows you to enter tight spaces, such as roads and small buildings.
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The promotional content of the company affects its development. After being deployed into battle, Lanius’ algorithm can map the area and scan people, separating enemies from allies – giving all that data to soldiers who can press a button to attack or kill their target.
For weapons critics, that represents a dire situation, one that could change the dynamics of war.
“It’s very worrying,” said Catherine Connolly, a weapons expert at Stop Killer Robots, an anti-gun advocacy group. “It basically allows the machine to decide whether you live or die if we remove the human control factor from that.”
Representatives for Elbit Systems did not return a request for comment.
Using drones in warfare has become commonplace. The United States stockpile of drones is responsible for the deaths of enemies and civilians in the Middle East. In Russia’s war against Ukraine, Moscow has been seen using a lethal drone that can swoop down on targets, destroying them with little notice.
Drones large and small have contributed to the war. Notably, Ukraine’s use of the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 – a drone the size of a small plane and armed with laser-guided missiles – caused damage to Russian tanks and trucks.
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For weapons manufacturers, that provides an attractive target.
Elbit Systems, headquartered out of Haifa, Israel, says in promotional content Its Lanius is equipped with features that can be very useful in urban combat situations, where soldiers cannot clearly see their enemy.
According to drone data, the drone is the size of a palm, about 11 inches by 6 inches. It has a speed of 45 miles per hour. It can fly for about 7 minutes, and has the ability to carry both lethal and non-lethal objects. It is not clear how dangerous substances can be fatal.
This drone is equipped with WiFi and radio communication technology. It can navigate using GPS navigation, and an artificial intelligence drone system can scan and map urban battlefields, providing soldiers with a 3D map of their surroundings.
The drone’s autonomous software helps with “enemy detection and classification,” according to the company, useful for “deadly ambushes.”
The company notes that a drone cannot decide to kill a person by itself and needs a “human-in-the-loop” to make the decision and pull the trigger.
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Besides, Stop Killer Robots’ Connolly has a lot to worry about.
A feature that requires people to participate in the decision to kill is possible don’t forget, he said. “Changing that would just require a software upgrade,” Connolly said. “There is … nothing to prevent the manufacturer from doing that or the attorney or agent who buys these plans asking them to do that.”
Lanius’ ability to use algorithms to distinguish adversaries from allies seems troubling, he said. The general public should know how a drone differentiates between a fighter and a civilian, what data the algorithm is trained on to make those calls, who you have it is written what information is used, and what kind of behavior is marked as making someone appear threatening, he said.
“It basically shows that programs can now decide, using an algorithm … to take a person’s life,” he said.