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Biometrics planned for AnyVision JV’s first drones for military use

Civil society groups raise alarm over ‘killer robots’
Biometrics planned for AnyVision JV’s first drones for military use

Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has announced its first use case which incorporates AnyVision‘s technology, through the joint company they set up together named SightX, in which Rafael owns 50 percent. The joint venture was developed for military use, in order to develop defense applications with AnyVision’s AI-driven computer vision as part of its business expansion plan into the industry. AnyVision’s biometric facial recognition technology helps with COVID-19 prevention efforts at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Last week, Rafael organized a demonstration of the technology, including commercial drones and a dog-like robot, shown to defense and security clients from around the world. Both products will incorporate automatic detection capabilities, with the ability to both scan and map buildings, and identify whether individuals inside are armed. Furthermore, it will differentiate between innocent civilians and militants, the companies say. In the future, the drones will utilize AnyVision’s facial recognition technology to accurately identify people within the building.

“We use commercial platforms and integrate the autonomous operational capabilities and our AI-driven computer vision,” Shmuel Olanski, head of the innovation program center at Rafael, told Calcalist. “Identifying targets automatically has been operational for years in air forces and naval forces across the world, but infantry forces weren’t able to benefit from it – until now.”

In the demonstration, the drones did not give an impression that they were especially quiet, report Calcalist, and it seemed that combatants would be able to shoot them down within several attempts. Although Olanski acknowledged that clients were looking for different capabilities in drones, many companies are able to operate a flock of drones, for example. The aim of these systems is to reduce the need to send human fighters into a danger zone, but where this cannot be avoided, to provide them with accurate intelligence of the threats that await them.

Rafael estimates that these autonomous drones are likely to cost several hundred dollars.

International Student Conference calls for ban on autonomous weapons systems

In contrast to the client interest Rafael and AnyVision are seeing, an article published in the Oxford Student highlights the difficulties and importance of bringing in effective regulation of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) via the online International Student Conference on Fully Autonomous Weapons hosted by Human Rights Watch Tokyo.

The conference included youth representatives from 20 countries, members of the UN Disarmament Committee, representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Director of Human Rights Watch Japan. The aim of the conference is to put pressure on the Japanese government to engage with discussions around LAWS at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCCW), which seeks to ban LAWS, held at the UN.

The Oxford Student mentions the issues that facial recognition has faced in terms of differentiating gender and minority ethnicities. This covers detection capabilities between soldiers and civilians, as described in SightX’s demonstration, which prevents the breaching of International Humanitarian Law. OS suggests that already the development of LAWS is nearing a point of no-return, where retracting the technology will become impossible. In 2015 AI experts and researchers signed an open letter which called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”. While in 2017, Elon Musk led a group of 116 specialists in a letter to the UN, which called on a ban of their development and use of LAWS.

Several UK government-led programs around the research into autonomous systems are currently being funded, and though the UK is invested in their development, there may still be room for avoiding their deployment becoming commonplace, Oxford Student writes.

Human Rights Watch Tokyo is one of more than 170 non-governmental organizations making up the Global Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

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