The US military's current fleet of drones will soon be overtaken by a new wave of robots that will be faster, stealthier and smarter - operating virtually without human intervention, experts say.
The Pentagon is investing heavily in 'autonomy' for robotic weapons, squadrons of drones in the air, land or sea that would work in tandem with manned machines.
"Now we're beginning to make them see, hear and sense," Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the US Air Force, told AFP. Unmanned aircraft are now overseen by 'pilots' on the ground but as the drones become more sophisticated, the role of remote operators will be more hands-off.
Instead of being "in the loop", humans will be "on the loop", said Maybury, explaining that operators will be able to 'dial in' when needed to give a drone direction for a specific task.
"We're moving into more and more autonomous systems. That's an evolutionary arc," said Peter Singer, an expert.