China is developing a new range of killer cruise missiles fitted with technology which will effectively turn them into killer robots.
Dubbed “death drones”, the missiles will use artificial intelligence (AI) to guide themselves in flight and potentially even choose new targets.
Wang Changqing, director of the General Design Department of the Third Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, told China Daily that his country was leading the world in the development of AI weapons.
He said: “We plan to adopt a ‘plug and play’ approach in the development of new cruise missiles, which will enable our military commanders to tailor-make missiles in accordance with combat conditions and their specific requirements.
“Moreover, our future cruise missiles will have a very high level of artificial intelligence and automation.
“They will allow commanders to control them in a real-time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or even to add more tasks to in-flight missiles.”
The new missiles will be modular, which means engineers can quickly change the payload to ramp up the weapon’s destructiveness or pack it with more fuel so it can strike distant targets.
These AI cruise missiles are a type of killer robot, the name given to weapons which can guide themselves into battle and choose targets.
This technology is highly controversial, as academics fear it will one day lead to a world where emotionless murder machines are unleashed upon civilians.
However, this scenario remains a long way away, as even the most advanced weapons require an element of human interaction in order to perform their deadly task.