Killer Robots: UK Government Policy on Fully Autonomous Weapons

Whilst considering that unmanned and automated systems will take on a growing role in its military forces, [1] the UK Government has committed in parliament that the operation of weapon systems will always remain under human control.  This commitment provides a positive basis for discussing the effective control of autonomous weapons for the future.  However, this commitment is brought into question by a consideration of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Joint Doctrine Note on ‘The UK Approach to Unmanned Systems.’[2]  As a result, current UK doctrine is confused and there are a number of areas where policy needs further elaboration if it is not to be so ambiguous as to be meaningless.

This paper calls on the UK Government to:

*  Commit to, and elaborate, meaningful human control over individual attacks.

*  Strengthen commitment not to develop fully autonomous weapons and systems that could undertake attacks without meaningful human control.

*  Recognize that an international treaty is needed to prohibit fully autonomous weapons and to clarify and strengthen legal protection from autonomous weapons more broadly.


Read the full paper by Article 36 here.