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Drone Prototype Outfitted with AI, Shotguns

The i9 is autonomous, but a human is manning the guns.

A recent post on Digital Trends touted the prospects of a new drone being developed by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense. And while a benefit shared by nearly all unmanned aerial vehicles is removing humans from potentially dangerous tasks, this one goes a step further.

In addition to a  six-rotor design, embedded artificial intelligence, and the application of complex physics algorithms that allow for more precise maneuverability inside buildings, the i9 prototype is also outfitted with two shotguns that utilize advanced machine vision target identification systems.

Ideally, the drone could be used inside buildings to gather information before sending law enforcement or military personnel through the door. While the UAV would offer autonomous options and functionality, the guns would be manned by a human on the other end of a remote control.

The i9 prototype falls under a growing area of product development dubbed Lethal Armed Autonomous Systems, or LAWS – a rare acronym that actually correlates to its use. Of particular importance to the many initiatives currently developing these types of drones is that autonomous features relate only to the maneuvering of the vehicle, not the firing of the weapon.

While the guns get the attention, the most novel aspect of the i9 could be its maneuverability. The aforementioned AI will look to address the primary challenge of operating drones inside buildings: "wall suck."

This is the tendency of drones with heavier payloads to crash into walls as they move through hallways or corridors. The manner in which of these rotor-driven units displace air make it difficult to navigate tight turns.

The i9 is currently undergoing testing and evaluation by the MoD.

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