Tech

Boeing to develop new autonomous drone program in Australia

Ever since James Cameron’s Terminator film franchise there’s been something in the back of our minds that says that it just isn’t a good idea to let robots think for themselves. But when it has the potential to save lives in emergency situations, exceptions can surely be made.

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners have announced that they will partner with the QLD government to create, test and develop ‘smart’ drones that are capable of autonomous thinking.

The new technology will over the next three years see next-generation autonomous systems introduced into Australia in order to increase the independent operation of air and sea vehicles for both defence, commercial and rescue purposes.

Essentially the idea is that an operator gives a drone an instruction and the drone carries it out without any other input from the operator.

Shane Arnott, director, Boeing’s Phantom Works International business in Australia, said of the partnership “The Queensland Government’s clear vision to invest in cutting-edge industries is backed by a progressive air space regulator, the state’s innovation culture and a talented network of local suppliers – creating an outstanding environment to innovate and experiment with autonomous vehicles and the systems and sensors that drive them.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was particularly interested in what the technology can do in disaster relief situations. “We know our state sees the effects of floods and cyclones, and these types of autonomous instruments … can contribute to saving people’s lives.”

Not only will it send Australia’s defence and industry capabilities into the next generation, 131 jobs will be created from this latest venture. And when is that ever a bad thing?

Personally I’m not going to be content until a drone can say “Come with me if you want to live” in rescue situations, but one step at a time.

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