Combat Drones: Hives, Swarms, and Autonomous Action?

Grimal, Francis and Sundaram, Jae (2018) Combat Drones: Hives, Swarms, and Autonomous Action? Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 23 (1). pp. 105-135. ISSN 1467-7954

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From both jus ad bellum and jus in bello perspectives, the lawfulness of unmanned aerial vehicle/combat drone strikes have been examined extensively but not yet exhaustively. Recent advances in technology allow combat drones to operate as a swarm—similar to their vespidae counterparts. An overly simplistic conclusion would suggest that the current legal tapestry applicable to solo drone usage would ‘automatically’ apply to drones acting collectively or as a swarm. This article, however, posits a more controversial position that the technological uniqueness of individual drones acting as a swarm necessitates a more thorough deconstruction of the applicable legal framework. In other words, does the unique way in which a swarm operates lawfully comply with both jus ad bellum and jus in bello parameters? Crucial to this discussion, is to examine the extent to which a swarm is programmed both offensively and defensively—with a view to exploring the algorithm of an automated response from other drones within the swarm. Within this broader question, the article seeks to scrutinise two specific areas. First, to what extent is the drone swarm’s architecture calibrated to comply with the cardinal self-defence parameters of necessity and proportionality should the swarm be attacked? And secondly, is the ‘swarm’ capable of being fully jus in bellow compliant in terms of distinction and proportionality and the duty to take precautions (‘The General Principles’). Would, for example, the chain of command structure in a drone swarm encompass the concept of the ‘reasonable military commander’ when it comes to targeting? The purpose of this article is not to reopen, or indeed close the debate surrounding artificial intelligence and its ethical implications. Rather, it is to seek to open further discussion surrounding the applicability of 20th century legal thresholds to 21st century phenomena and beyond.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Drone aircraft, law and legislation; Law, military; Unmanned aerial vehicles;
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Divisions: School of Law
Depositing User: Rachel Pollard
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2018 08:23
Last Modified: 22 May 2020 00:15

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