Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that develops military technologies, has just unveiled a lethal autonomous kamikaze drone called Lanius.
It is an agile quadcopter with AI-powered exploration, mapping and target classification capabilities. And above all with the ability to explode "on encounter" with the target, or when required.
A Horseman of the Apocalypse in modern warfare
Il conflict in Ukraine has anointed drones as a weapon, and it's easy to see why: they're cheap, straightforward to use, and increasingly intelligent. They are now used for everything: they "see" and map dangerous areas without any risk to the pilot, often acting completely undetected, and they kill with incredible precision.
Nothing nice, really. And the Lanius takes all these features to the extreme.
The autonomous kamikaze drone flies in groups of three on the back of a "mother drone" until it sets off on a suicide mission. It weighs very little at takeoff: just 1,25 kg (2,76 lbs), including a lethal or non-lethal payload of up to 150 grams (5,3 oz). A small lithium battery gives it a maximum flight time of about seven minutes. They are enough for him and they go on.
The characteristics of this tremendous killing machine are optimized to inflict as much damage as possible, without waste. Only the essentials to kill. In addition to a simple, boxy-looking carbon fiber racing drone frame, the Lanius is equipped with numerous sensors and cameras, as well as an Nvidia Jetson AI module-based system designed specifically for rapid interpretation of data streams with low energy consumption. Connects to Elbit's Legion-X combat swarm management software for autonomous multi-drone missions.
Behind the technicalities, the substance: this kamikaze drone facilitates scientific extermination
Alone or in a swarm, Lanius can do it all by himself: patrolling, avoiding collisions, detecting and recognizing a target (by himself classifying it as friendly or hostile, combatant or not, armed or not) he even enters buildings and finishes the his kamikaze drone flight, blowing himself up. Only "human" factor at the moment, he says the manufacturing company, is a final "ok" that the operator grants to the machine, which completes the "job" by itself.
In "ambush" mode, the drone detects a particular area, such as a closed door that may have hostile threats on the other side. Land and guard the door. If the door opens and it sees something it classifies as an armed threat, it will notify a remote operator and "ask" permission to act.
Given how quickly quadcopter drones and deep learning have developed over the past decade, these machines will advance rapidly in the coming years. And behind other technicalities the complete delegation of a murder will also be justified: no way, Asimov.