The Pentagon hires facial recognition for drones that respond autonomously | Technology | The USA Print

Drones have an increasingly prominent role in civil and military aeronautics. Its use has proliferated in the Ukrainian war. Russia has turned to Iranian-made drones to attack where its aviation has been powerless. Ukraine has also used them for its defense. Many countries are strengthening their capabilities with unmanned devices. The United States, one of the pioneering countries in the military use of drones, is equipping its gadgets with facial recognition capabilities that allow them to respond autonomously.

The Pentagon has awarded Seattle-based firm RealNetworks a project to implement facial recognition on small autonomous drones for identification and intelligence gathering, according to the website of the US Government fund aimed at promoting innovation and technology transfer in small and medium-sized companies.

The project description states that the systems should serve to provide practical information to remote human operators and also “offer the possibility for the robot to respond autonomously in real time.” The system developed by RealNetworks, whose award was advanced by the publication NewScientist, It is based on artificial intelligence.

RealNetworks has already received other projects from the Department of Defense of facial recognition, including those dedicated to access controls to security enclosures, rescue missions or installation of these identification programs in autonomous quadruped robots, according to official records. The project to adapt these facial recognition systems to drones has amounted to 729,000 dollars (about 690,000 euros at current exchange rates).

Identification through facial recognition works with a high degree of success if the image is taken in suitable conditions, but it is more difficult to do it from a drone. Some companies are developing technology to improve reliability by varying the angle based on the position of the person.

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The reconnaissance from a drone can have multiple security applications, from the surveillance of enclosures to the location of suspects. However, equipping a drone with facial recognition and allowing it to respond autonomously raises fears that it could be programmed to find and kill someone, with the ethical and legal questions that such an operation raises.

The United States has frequently used drones for attacks on terrorist leaders and other enemies, but the normal thing is that other sources allow identification and that the device does not respond autonomously, but rather piloted and operated remotely.

One of the most notorious drone attacks in the United States was the one that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda, in early August 2022 in Kabul, on the orders of President Joe Biden. Egyptian Al Zawahiri, one of the most wanted terrorists, took over from Osama Bin Laden in the terrorist organization after the latter’s death in 2011.

Other countries are also developing their own facial recognition programs from unmanned military devices. Israel and Turkey are among the countries credited with such technology installed in drones. The development of devices like this raises fears that drones with facial recognition programs could be used by criminals and terrorist organizations to attack their targets.

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