Killer Robots: Ethical Issues in the Design of Unmanned Systems for Military Applications

  • Robert SparrowEmail author
Reference work entry


Unmanned systems in military applications will often play a role in determining the success or failure of combat missions and thus in determining who lives and dies in times of war. Designers of UMS must therefore consider ethical, as well as operational, requirements and limits when developing UMS. The ethical issues involved in UMS design may be grouped under two broad headings: Building Safe Systems and Designing for the Law of Armed Conflict. This paper identifies and discusses a number of issues under each of these headings and offers some analysis of the implications of each issue and how it might be addressed.


Armed Conflict Psychological Distance Weapon System Unmanned Surface Vehicle Commanding Officer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research for this paper was supported by the Australian Research Council, through the award of an ARC Discovery Grant (DP0770545) to Dr Jessica Wolfendale, Professor Tony Coady, and Dr Robert Sparrow. The author would like to thank Neil McKinnon for assistance with locating sources for this paper and with preparing it for publication. The author would also like to thank Jessica Wolfendale, Linda Barclay, Jim Sparrow, John Canning, and Ron Arkin for comments and discussion which have improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMonash UniversityCanberraAustralia

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