Combat robots, autonomous sea drones and cybersecurity artificial intelligence have been recommended in a new report by the United States Department of Defence.

The department “must accelerate its exploitation of autonomy”, the report by the department’s Defence Science Board has said. This will allow it to “remain ahead of adversaries who also will exploit its operational benefits”, it added.

The US military already uses robots and drones, but these are remotely-controlled – meaning that a human is still in control of the machine at all times.

The report recommends forming combat teams of humans and purely autonomous machines. The machine would be able to “infer the commander’s intent” and adapt to scenarios which humans would not have foreseen.

The board also recommends using artificial intelligence in cyber security to detect threats and raise alerts quicker than would have been humanly possible.

It recommends that the Navy and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conduct experiments to create autonomous undersea minefields.

Beyond these, it recommends that DARPA “expand the envelope” by looking into future technologies. In one scenario, it recommends creating an “autonomous early awareness system” for US leaders. The system would use big data analytics from social media to anticipate “emerging social movements” in real-time.

The use of autonomous machines is “inevitable” in warfare, the report added. “It should not be a surprise when adversaries employ autonomy against U.S. forces,” it said.

Image by U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt, Public Domain