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Low cost drones and countermeasures: What worries experts in regards to the way forward for warfare

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Recent developments have made it easier than ever to amass military grade drones, and the U.S. must deal with developing counter-drone measures, experts said Friday on the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

“We do see this as a growing problem, because for those who take a look at the supply of cheap drones, you discover that the violent extremist organizations that we battle across the globe have easy accessibility to this technology,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Rating Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “They needn’t develop anything. All they should do is hop on Amazon, and so they should buy a $300 drone that may be used against an adversary. And so it’s an actual concern.”

Ernst and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, discussed developments concerning drone technology and the necessity for countermeasures. 

Ernst noted that China and Russia have began to deal with “swarm technology,” an idea discussed in U.S. Air Force papers and defined as “a gaggle of autonomous networked small unmanned aircraft systems operating collaboratively to realize common objectives.” The goal of such approaches focuses on overwhelming a goal and “saturating its defenses.” 

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“It isn’t just the one-offs which are being purchased on the web, but now we’ve near-peer adversaries which are developing swarm technology where they’ll use 100 or 200 different drones — highly, highly evolved drones that may attack our service members on the battlefield,” she said. 

Developing AI to higher utilize such technologies would remain vital because the U.S. explores these sorts of weapons as well, Crow added. 

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“We’ve got some really big unanswered questions, too, that we’ve to have some public debate about,” he said. “That is just not the technology and the investment, but we’ve to have a discussion around what’s the role of AI going to be, because we’ve discussions as a democracy and we’ve, we’d take into accounts the ethical and moral implications of drones and ways in which a few of our adversaries don’t.” 

Introducing AI into the discussion also raises the query as to what role humans have “within the kill chain,” as removing people might help speed up decision-making and targeting in combat scenarios, Crow explained. 

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“As we take a look at great power competition, our engagement in PACOM (United States Indo-Pacific Command) and what the scenarios for engagement and a number of the war planning appear like, that’s an important a part of the controversy that is still unanswered,” he said. 

Ernst also described the necessity to develop interoperable systems to handle the brand new landscape of air combat, especially with a watch towards Iran and its capabilities. 

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“With the threat that Iran poses, not only are we missile defense, but now due to the drone threat, it’s air defense in a way that we have not had to think about before,” she said. “So we actually do have a bicameral, bipartisan act that may allow our secretary of defense to work with numerous allies and partners in coming up with interoperability systems which are tied together so far as air and missile defense throughout the Middle East and again, directed at protecting against the threat that Iran poses.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Aviation Administration projected the variety of unnamed drones in U.S. airspace to quadruple from 110,000 to 450,000 in 2022. 

Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a deal with national and global news. 

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