Naval robots and rescue

The development of unmanned systems (UMS) for naval combat poses a profound challenge to existing conventions regarding the treatment of the shipwrecked and wounded in war at sea. Article 18 of the 1949 Geneva Convention II states that warring parties are required to take "all possible measures" to search for and collect seamen left in the water after each engagement. The authors of the present paper analyze the ethical basis of this convention and argue that the international community should demand that UMS intended for roles in war at sea be provided with the capacity to make some contribution to search and rescue operations.

About the authors

Dr Robert Sparrow
Monash University

Dr Robert Sparrow is a Professor in the Philosophy Program, a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, and an adjunct Professor in the Monash Bioethics Centre, at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He is a co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and was one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

Dr Rob McLaughlin
UNSW Canberra (Australian Defence Force Academy)

Dr Rob McLaughlin is Professor of Military and Security Law, and Director of the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society, at UNSW Canberra (Australian Defence Force Academy). Prior to this he served for more than twenty years in the Royal Australian Navy as a Seaman and Legal officer, then as the Head of the UNODC Maritime Crime Program (2012–14), and as an Associate Professor in the College of Law at Australian National University (2012–17).

Dr Mark Howard
Monash University

Dr Mark Howard is a Teaching and Research Associate in the Philosophy Program at Monash University. He specializes in political philosophy and applied ethics, and currently teaches human rights theory.