Skip to main content

Autonomous Weapons

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN HL2710, tabled on 6 November 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have a policy on the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems and a definition of meaningful human involvement in drone operations.

Answered on

17 November 2014

Yes, the Government does have a clear policy on this and I refer the noble Lord to the statement made in the House of Commons by my hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Alistair Burt) on 17 June 2013 (Official Report, column 734) on the subject of autonomous weapons.

The phrase meaningful human control is an emergent concept which the UK is mindful of and working to define with interested parties in step with technological and doctrinal developments. However, in practical terms, in UK operations every target is assessed by a human, and every release of weapons is authorised by a human; other than in a very small number of instances, all targets are also acquired by a human. The exception is in a small number of defensive anti-materiel systems e.g. Phalanx. However, in those instances a human is required to authorise weapons release.