2023 - REPORT - DEVELOPING FUTURE CAPABILITIES: ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS

Joe WEINGARTEN (Germany)

07 October 2023

The roles of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) for military forces are steadily growing. While their integration into existing military force structures remains an issue, they will be crucial for the development of future military capabilities.

Uncrewed systems may militarise areas that were previously inaccessible or only accessible to humans to a limited extent – especially the deep sea and the seabed. For example, “seabed warfare” and the associated surveillance of our seaward critical infrastructure will only be possible through autonomous systems. The Rapporteur considers swarming technology in particular to be one of the greatest challenges of the future battlefield. There are very few, if any, fully autonomous systems today but technological progress will make them possible and the implications, especially of AI (Artificial Intelligence) drone swarms, are unknown. 

The scope of this report is limited to robotics and does not cover the ongoing militarisation of the cyber and information space, which will become increasingly dynamic as a result of Artificial Intelligence. This report focuses on general trends of RAS in the military and examines their potential contribution to the development of the military capabilities of NATO’s armed forces. In addition to progress made by Allies, the Rapporteur also discusses the activities of potential competitors, like China and Russia, in military RAS development. Possible risks posed by the increased use of autonomous systems are raised at the end of this short paper.
 


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