Watch LIVE

Are 'Mind-Reading Drones' Next in the Military's Arsenal?


“memory management, pattern matching, and goal-based reasoning”

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone.

We regularly feature amazing weapons on this site. And they all have one thing in common: they're not human. But a new futuristic weapon could soon blur the line between human and android.

According to, the Air Force is developing a new "mind-reading." But "mind-reading" might be a little too complimentary. Really, the drones have an advanced system that allows them to anticipate nearby pilots' moves. The technology is part of a plan to avert accidents. Wired explains:

The answer: Design an algorithm that reads people’s minds. Or the next best thing — anticipates a pilot’s reaction to a drone flying too close.

Enter Soar Technologies, a Michigan company that proposes to create something it calls “Explanation, Schemas, and Prediction for Recognition of Intent in the Terminal Area of Operations,” or ESPRIT. It’ll create a “Schema Engine” that uses “memory management, pattern matching, and goal-based reasoning” to infer the intentions of nearby aircraft.

Not presuming that every flight will go according to plan, the Schema Engine’s “cognitive explanation mechanism” will help the drone figure out if a pilot is flying erratically or out of control. The Air Force signed a contract Dec. 23 with Soar, whose representatives were not reachable for comment.

In the spirit of capitalism, California-based Stottler Henke Associates is creating a rival system called the Intelligent Pilot Intent Analysis System. That system would “represent and execute expert pilot-reasoning processes to infer other pilots’ intents in the same way human pilots currently do.”

That system, the company hopes, could also be used to decipher friend from foe.

“Many of the pilot-intent-analysis techniques described are also applicable for determining illegal intent and are therefore directly applicable to finding terrorists and smugglers,” the company told the Air Force. It was apparently a convincing argument -- the company signed a deal in January.

All this news worries Wired author Stephen Ackerman: "Scientifically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before drones become self-aware and kill us all. Now the Air Force is hastening that day of reckoning."

Most recent
All Articles