Israel’s Killer Robots

[MUSIC PLAYING] SIMON OSTROVSKY: So this is the Heron TP It's actually really loud

It's a propeller plane It's not Israel's biggest, but it's apparently their best-selling product And it's about to taxi off to do a test run Funny thing is, they don't want to tell us that the other thing besides cameras that they can put on it is rockets And that's the main thing that people are buying it for

But you'll never hear an Israeli official admit that UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, better known as drones– they're big business, especially in Israel In fact, Israel is the biggest exporter of drones on the planet And with the technology getting lighter and more sophisticated, drones are being used for spying and surveillance like never before But of course, drones are most infamous for their targeted killings performed in multiple conflict zones around the world

So drones are saving human soldiers from getting hurt But does their pilot's remoteness to the field make killing too easy? There are like two dozen drones in here I think this is what the future is going to feel like when Skynet takes over and they become self-aware We are at Israel Aerospace Industries' hangar, meeting with a representative of the drone division known as Malat ZVIKA KALRON: Malat is one of the most veteran and experienced UAV manufacturers

Our models are operational all over the world UAVs, the idea was a lesson from the 1973 war Egyptian division crossed the Suez Canal We were caught unready There were drones that were taking aerial photographs

But to develop such a photograph takes six to eight hours– too much time Because the battlefield is dynamic If we had, at that time, a model drone flying over the Suez Canal, bringing us real-time intelligence, the results of the war would be much different SIMON OSTROVSKY: So do you see in the future a video game where operators in different countries are flying UAVs that shoot each other down like fighter pilots used to do? ZVIKA KALRON: UAV systems are going to replace manned aircraft SIMON OSTROVSKY: Zvika says, by the year 2035, drones will comprise 95% of the airborne fighting force

So can your drones fire rockets, do targeted assassinations? ZVIKA KALRON: Well, I would be much happy to answer you that question But if I tell you about anything to do with the armament in the UAVs, I'll have to kill you SIMON OSTROVSKY: We're heading to an airfield in the north of Israel where we're going to watch a drone take off And this airfield is called [INAUDIBLE] It's not even on Google Maps

So we've been lost for the last 15 minutes, but it looks like we finally found it And apparently, it does exist So here we are We're from Vice We've come to film the drones

-Show me the passport SIMON OSTROVSKY: As confused as the soldier on guard duty seemed on our arrival, our handler quickly showed up to set out the terms of our visit -Good morning SIMON OSTROVSKY: She asked not to appear on camera -Hi, Simon

This is the Israeli Air Force Base, OK? Just want to have a short preview– we have over 50 customers, five-oh, 50 customers around the world SIMON OSTROVSKY: Are they all countries? -Yes, no– no, because if you take a coast guard and an army, it's two customers, but one country So it's a good question, so 50 customers, not 50 countries SIMON OSTROVSKY: 50 clients is a lot of business, especially when most of them have national budgets backing their appetites for weaponry One of the drone operators, who didn't want us to show his face on camera, introduced us to one of the drones manufactured by IAI

-OK, first of all, we're looking at a Heron UAV It's maybe the main bird that we sell to different customers around the world Wingspan is approximately 17 meters The payload it is possible to carry is 250 kilos And it can fly up to 36 hours in operational mode

SIMON OSTROVSKY: So what are the uses of this particular drone? -OK, generally, operationally wise, you can use your imagination, OK? 250 kilos of payload, you can use different radars, a C-radar or SAR radar, and of course, the camera against every scenario on the future battlefield SIMON OSTROVSKY: It doesn't carry weapons? -As you can see, this is the specific, let's say, configuration And you can see, it has nothing on board except the camera SIMON OSTROVSKY: Right now, I mean but next to Gaza, [INAUDIBLE] looking over during the last conflict that they had there, you could really hear the drones in the sky It was like a chorus of lawn mowers circling overhead

-Again, it depends In Gaza, you're not sure that what you heard was UAVs, so you can't really say SIMON OSTROVSKY: No? -It's as I see it And again, when people hear the drone or the UAV or anything that flies above, they have a tendency to not do bad things SIMON OSTROVSKY: Gaza is ground zero for Israel's drone invasion

The hum of their propellers fill the sky day and night During the heaviest fighting in Gaza in 2008 and 2009, human rights groups reported 87 civilians killed during the 42 drone-assisted attacks In November 2012, the military leader of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, was assassinated in a drone-assisted strike The Israeli military released this footage from the drone hovering over the attack site So we're about to see one of Israel's best-selling drones take off

It's called the Heron TP It's made by the Israeli Aerospace Industries Look ma, no pilot After the operator on the tarmac gets the drone in the air, flying duties are handed off to a sort of portable control room So this container is where they actually pilot the drone from

I'm going to have a look inside -OK, this is the flight field We have the artificial horizon here Also, you can control the heading of the UAV This is the compass that you can use

Blue arrows are the commands Green ones are the reports from the UAV You can control the speed here SIMON OSTROVSKY: They can choose a spot on the screen that they want the drone to circle around And then these circles show the ground traffic that it follows

Basically, it can circle around that point so that it can get the best images of that area possible And it pretty much functions autonomously after that point Right now, it's just circling by itself without anybody essentially controlling any of what it's doing I wonder what the red button does It's true that the Heron TP rarely carries weapons of its own

But it's often used to guide weapons fired from elsewhere by locking onto targets for them And for all the claims of precision supporters of the use of drones make, a recent study found that strikes carried out by drones are 10 times more deadly to civilians than strikes by manned aircraft So what's the weirdest thing you've ever seen on one of these test flights? -There is a story about a person that was on an instruction flight that was above his house, above the town that he lives in And he saw a car that he didn't recognize Nobody was supposed to be in the house

When he called, somebody answered This is how we discovered that his wife was cheating on him -Come on, not on film [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]? -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

SIMON OSTROVSKY: The strangest thing about the guys in the control room is that they don't even have to be there It's only Israeli laws that require drones to have spotters to man the equipment in case of a malfunction Otherwise, the drones can pretty much operate independently Drones are fully automaticcc programmable robots that can take off, land, taxi, and even put themselves away I'm going to try to see if it can see me

Hello, hi drone It dawned on me that the drones would soon be able to select and engage targets autonomously In fact, the technology is already here We've only to make the decision to take humans out of the loop and turn our remote controlled weapons into killer robots I sure can't see it

I guess that's kind of the point [MUSIC PLAYING]