This new paper, ‘Sensor-based targeting systems: an option for regulation‘ by Anna Turek, suggests that ‘sensor-based targeting systems’ could be considered (and regulated) as a component of new law on autonomous weapons systems. It argues that autonomous weapons could be defined as systems that apply force automatically on the basis of a sensor-based targeting system. The paper then suggests how the proposed rules from Article 36’s basic policy position could be applied to these different components.

This approach has utility because it broadens the scope of regulation to capture certain systems even when they are not producing an automated application of force. For example, it would bring under regulation systems even when they are not being used in an ‘autonomous’ mode, but where a targeting system is make suggestions to a human operator. If people are going to be making decisions to apply force on the basis of proposals being made by machine systems then we can instinctively recognise that there needs to be some sufficiency of independent human engagement if those human decisions are to be meaningful. By framing sensor-based targeting systems as necessary components of an autonomous weapon system, but also as systems in their own right, we have a route to regulation.

This short paper suggests a way in which a legal instrument to address autonomous weapons could also establish a basis for requiring meaningful human control in this wider context.

Featured image: A Super aEgis anti-personnel sentry robot (illustration: BB Studio)

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