Aerial drones bring risks and opportunities, UAE minister says

Mohammed Al Bowardi tells visitors at unmanned systems exhibition in Abu Dhabi that humans must stay in the loop

BERENICE, EGYPT - January 15, 2020: HE Mohamed Ahmad Al Bowardi, UAE Minister of State for Defence Affairs (L), attends the opening ceremony of Berenice Military Base.

( Mohamed Al Hammadi / Ministry of Presidential Affairs )
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Drones have the potential to change lives for the better as long as they are properly regulated, a UAE government minister said.

Unmanned aerial devices may soon be put to wide commercial use after being proved by the military in the past 20 years.

Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, told the Unmanned System Exhibition and Conference (Umex) at Adnec in Abu Dhabi that governments will need to weigh security matters and economic benefits.

"Today, more than ever, we understand the importance of safeguarding our nation by ensuring that these technologies are tools that we can use [and that] other tools can be used against us," he said on Sunday, the first day of the four-day event.

"These systems don't become tired. They don't need breaks and they have no need for sleep. These capabilities are a benefit to officers on the battlefield."

Although the issue has been discussed for years, few, if any, governments have approved such aerial drones for widespread use. But the opportunities for commerce, including the potential to take millions of petrol vehicles off the roads worldwide, could be significant.

Many countries are now looking at how drones can be used for the delivery of goods such as medicines.

Mr Al Bowardi said that providing drones with artificial intelligence meant another leap forward.

But he said that careful government regulation and human supervision of new technology would be critical.

"When infused with artificial intelligence, drones can take decisions that are really very different to those we may make," Mr Al Bowardi said.

"So, we need to constantly keep a human in the loop to ensure that these decisions are things that make sense for us.

"We need to understand that this technology is not perfect, but we need it today more than ever."

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Updated: February 20, 2022, 12:24 PM
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