The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence is developing twin shotgun-toting drones that are able to fly inside buildings, as well as identify prospective targets using machine vision. The six-rotor drone so far exists in a prototype version called i9. It will primarily be used for indoors conflicts in which it could prove dangerous to send live personnel. These settings expose personnel to significant danger and unexpected lethal force.
However, while the drone could potentially have various autonomous features, the weapons themselves will be remote-controlled by a soldier responsible for firing them. The MoD told Digital Trends that the U.K. has no intention of developing Lethal Armed Autonomous Systems (LAWS).
Project i9 has been developed as part of an initiative to create armed urban warfare Unmanned Aerial Systems. The drone that has been developed is now being used for experimentation by potential users. The MoD has declined to provide photos of the prototype as the drone has been developed with a U.K. startup that is currently in “stealth mode.”
The Times newspaper said that this is the U.K. military’s first weaponized drone that will be able to fly indoors. This is achieved using a mix of “physics and A.I.” that enable it to overcome a problem called “wall suck.” This phenomenon makes it difficult for drones that have heavy payloads to maneuver in small rooms because of the way they displace air as they fly, thereby causing them to crash.
While this might be a first for the U.K., however, it’s far from the first weaponized drone. Drones of various designs have been used prominently in warfare throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Gun-wielding drones are nothing new, either. Florida-based manufacturer Duke Robotics has developed TIKAD, a drone that sports a plethora of semi-automatic weapons, alongside a 40mm grenade launcher. Meanwhile, Turkish electronics firm Asisguard has created Songar, a drone capable of wielding a mounted machine gun and carrying 200 rounds of ammunition. (Then there’s whatever the heck this nail gun-firing drone is!)
There’s no official word on when the Ministry of Defence’s i9 drone will officially take to the skies. But we’ll make sure to keep you updated as more information emerges regarding this project.
- Robots could soon make up a quarter of U.K. army, top general suggests
- Military nano drones help soldiers map out the battlefield ahead
- Future armies could use teams of drones and robots to storm buildings
- Autonomous drones are helping to keep a U.S. Air Force base in California secure
- FAA authorizes autonomous drone flight without an operator nearby