For most people drones are solely a new gadget, a nice toy to use to fly through the neighbourhood, make aerial photos or even spy on the neighbours with. Becoming popular very fast, drones have entered lots of scenarios people would probably have never thought of.
In only a few years time drones have entered several different industries: They are now used to deliver goods in a fast way, study the surroundings and spy on remote military bases. Drones have been used for security monitoring, safety inspections, border control and tracking of the weather. They have even been armed with rockets and bombs during military actions and protects the lives of soldiers that otherwise would enter hostile territory feeling a lot less safe.
Whole companies exist to deliver drones for commercial use. The potential of these remote controlled flying robots is unlimited.
Now limited because of their human masters, the next generation of drones will be directed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). With AI drones can make decisions on their own and operate on behalf of people. But when a drone acquires the ability to make decisions on its own and ‘learn’ to operate independently from people, the potential benefits should be weighted against the possible damage that society can experience through drones.
When talking about AI, we are entering unknown territory and our only guide is our imagination. Some of the smartest people of the last century have predicted what could happen. Could we be confronted with a world where an army of Terminator drones sends all of us into nuclear holocaust?
Are we too late to stop a future robot-apocalyps? The technology is already available and not acting now can be disastrous. Do we still have time to stop this destruction on a worldwide scale?
Intel has used technology to make videos of– and gather information on animals in the wild, through drones, to help scientists more efficiently and less radically with important research.
In the same way GE’s Avitas Systems has started using drones for automating inspections of infrastructure, among them pipelines, high-voltage lines and transport systems. Their AI drones are safer and more efficient than people, and their machine learning technology can spot faults in the data.
So are AI powered drones useful or harmful? It really depends what we use them for. The potential advantages are too many to count if we enter machine learning’s territory carefully, but the risks of not acting now are also very severe.
What do you think? Should we only use drones for fun, or make them more autonomous, with the risk that possibly in the future we will lose control over them? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org