Israel attacks Hamas using AI drone swarm

Occurred: May 2021

Israel used an AI-guided swarm of drones to attack Hamas militants, raising concerns about the ethics of using lethal autonomous weapons in real combat situations. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted over 30 sorties using flocks of drones over the Gaza Strip to detect rocket launches by Hamas and attack the sites. It is thought to be the first significant, publicly acknowledged real-world use of the concept.

Drone swarms fly as one integrated network controlled by AI, and only require a single human operator to direct the swarm. The drone then guide themselves to locate the targets as a connected unit. The swarm can continue to operate even if some of the individual drones are destroyed.

A 2018 US Air Force study (pdf) found that AI-enabled drone swarms made weapons significantly more efficient and lethal. 800 drones in a swarm were able to destroy more targets in two hours than 1,000 drones acting independently during a simulation. 

Operator: Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
Developer: Elbit Systems
Country: Israel; Palestine
Sector: Govt - defence
Purpose: Detect rocket launch locations
Technology: Drone
Issue: Ethics/values