Observers warn that as drones "learn" their way around battlefield, they can't learn the value of human life

Remote-controlled armed robots that can patrol battle zones, track infiltrators and shoot at suspected enemies, are being marketed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industrie, which presented its “REX MKII” unmanned vehicle at an arms fair in London.

Proponents say such semi-autonomous machines allow armies to protect their soldiers, while critics fear this marks another dangerous step toward robots making life-or-death decisions.

The drone is operated by an electronic tablet and can be equipped with two machine guns, cameras and sensors, said Rani Avni, deputy head of the company’s autonomous systems division. The robot can gather intelligence for ground troops, carry injured soldiers and supplies in and out of battle, and strike nearby targets.

“With every mission, the device collects more data which it then learns from for future missions,” said Yonni Gedj, an operational expert in the company’s robotics division.

“Machines cannot understand the value of human life,” and cannot be trusted to distinguish between combatants and civilians, said Bonnie Docherty, a senior researcher from the arms division of Human Rights Watch, and a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

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