March 15, 2017

How Intelligent Drones Are Shaping the Future of Warfare

By Paul Scharre

Source: Rolling Stone

Journalist(s) Benjamin Powers

The drones fell out of the sky over China Lake, California, like a colony of bats fleeing a cave in the night. Over 100 of them dropped from the bellies of three Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, their sharp angles cutting across the clear blue sky. As they encircled their target, the mechanical whir of their flight sounded like screaming. 

This was the world's largest micro-drone swarm test. Conducted in October 2016 by the Department of Defense's Strategic Capabilities Office and the Navy's Air Systems Command, the test was the latest step in what could be termed a swarm-drone arms race. China had previously been ahead when they tested a swarm of 67 drones flying together – calling their technology the "top in the world" – but with the latest test of 103 drones, the United States was once again ahead.What made this test intriguing, however, was the drones themselves – and what they might mean for the future of warfare. 

Drones have come a long way from their initial uses for surveillance. On February 4th, 2002, in the Paktia province of Afghanistan near the city of Khost, the CIA used an unmanned Predator drone in a strike for the first time. The target was Osama bin Laden. Though he turned out not to be there, the strike killed three men nonetheless. The CIA had used drones for surveillance before, but not in military operations, and not to kill. What had once merely been a flying camera in the sky was now weaponized.

Read the full article at Rolling Stone.

  • Paul Scharre

    Senior Fellow and Director, Technology and National Security Program

    Paul Scharre is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is author of the forthcoming book, A...