April 28, 2015

Scharre: Protect the X-47B to safeguard innovation

By Paul Scharre

Last week, the Navy made aviation history for the second time in two years by accomplishing yet another first for unmanned aircraft: a fully autonomous aerial refueling.

This comes on the heels of the Navy's historic landing of a fully autonomous unmanned aircraft, the X-47B, on an aircraft carrier in 2013. To capitalize on these successes, the Navy plans to next retire the unmanned aircraft - built by Northrop Grumman - and stick them in a museum.

It's the equivalent of the Wright brothers' following up their historic flight at Kitty Hawk by burning their airplane to the ground.... If the Wright brothers' plane had cost $800 million of U.S. taxpayer money and had only expended 20 percent of its service life.

The Navy's explanation for why it plans to retire the two experimental X-47B aircraft, Salty Dog 501 & 502, is that its demonstration plan is complete. But that's only because the Navy has decided to call it quits. Important work remains ahead.

Read the full op-ed at The Pilot Online.

  • Reports
    • October 12, 2022
    Artificial Intelligence and Arms Control

    Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) pose immense opportunity for militaries around the world. With this rising potential for AI-enabled military systems, some activists a...

    By Paul Scharre & Megan Lamberth

  • Podcast
    • April 29, 2021
    Fire and Ice

    In this week’s edition of the SpyTalk podcast, Jeff Stein goes deep on the CIA’s looming eviction from Afghanistan with Lisa Curtis, a longtime former CIA, State Department an...

    By Lisa Curtis, Jeff Stein, Jeanne Meserve & Alma Katsu

  • Reports
    • April 28, 2021
    Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities

    These seven new principles concentrate on the responsible use of autonomous functionalities in armed conflict in ways that preserve human judgment and responsibility over the ...

    By Robert O. Work

  • Podcast
    • March 25, 2021
    Are ‘killer robots’ the future of warfare?

    Paul Scharre joins host Suzanna Kianpour to discuss the technology, fears and even potential advantages of developing autonomous weapons. Listen to the full conversation from...

    By Paul Scharre

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia