Tech UPTechnologyUnderwater robots capable of autonomous attack

Underwater robots capable of autonomous attack

The US Navy Office of Naval Research is developing an underwater robot that would be controlled by artificial intelligence and that could launch attacks without human intervention or supervision. In other words, the unit could be lethal at the autonomous level and would be able to sink targets by its own strategic decision.

While there are already autonomous submarines that can complete tasks without human involvement, they are not very intelligent and have a very limited level of functionality.

The details of the project are still fuzzy and the development is classified as Top Secret , but it is already part of the 2020 budget. Its name is CLAWS .

It is believed to go from an idea to a working prototype thanks to this additional funding and could be deployed on large robot submarines by 2022.


CLAWS is expected to be installed on the new Orca-class robot submarines that have twelve torpedo tubes and that the Boeing company is developing for the Navy.

CLAWS was first revealed in 2018 as part of an attempt by the United States Navy to “improve the range and survivability of large and extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles,” but details of the weaponry or that it was not mentioned at the time. it would also be controlled by artificial intelligence.

If little is known about how CLAWS will operate on a technical level, there is more information about the Orca units that will house it: they will have a modular payload compartment, with defined interfaces to support current and future payloads, as well as great maneuverability . The firm will design and test a total of four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (XLUUV) based on its autonomous Echo Voyager , which can operate at sea for months without human assistance.

The United States is not the only country working on lethal autonomous submarines. For its part, China also hopes to deploy fully autonomous unmanned military submarines in this decade. And the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is also developing its own autonomous robots capable of killing .


More than 50 academics recently signed a very critical letter addressed to KAIST and its partner, the defense systems manufacturer Hanwha Systems, questioning this kind of development and openly declaring that if “the goal of the project is to develop autonomous weapons, to have a partner like this triggers great fears “

And the fact is that this class of autonomous units raises a series of new ethical questions, and there are also researchers who consider that a dangerous weapons escalation could occur if we allow so much autonomy to the robot units. Two years ago, a United Nations committee met to define the limits of the so-called “lethal autonomous weapons systems” (LAWS) under the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). in English), in which more than 80 countries participated.

For their part, Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) of Harvard Law School request that States, with regard to the development of lethal autonomous weapons, adopt a legally binding international regulation that prohibits their development. , production and use.

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