The use of autonomous drones that could fire weapons without human intervention or control must be prohibited by international treaty, a U.S. rights group says.
A report issued by Human Rights Watch, based in New York, warns fully autonomous weapons would be operating without the human element that assures checks on the killing of civilians.
"Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far," Steve Goose, the HRW arms division director, told Britain's The Guardian newspaper. "Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries."
The report -- "Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots -- was based on extensive research into the law, technology and ethics of the proposed weapons, HRW said.
Published jointly with Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, they report urges the absolute prohibition, through international treaty, of the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.
The report said the United States, China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain are engaged in researching and developing such weapons.
"It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals," Goose said. "As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up."
"Action is needed now, before killer robots cross the line from science fiction to feasibility."
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