TECH
07/10/2015 09:11 BST | Updated 07/10/2015 09:59 BST

"Killer Robots" Could Become Reality If UN Talks Continue To Delay, Expert Warns

"Killer robots" or autonomous weapons could become a real threat if the UN continues to delay negotiations around autonomous weapons.

Currently, the US and the UK are looking to pre-emptively ban emerging technology which could mean that weapons developed during the discussions will not be covered if and when a ban is put into effect.

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According to The Guardian, the UN's warning came from Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

"There is indeed a danger now that [the process] may get stuck,” he said.

“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” he said. “If there is not a pre-emptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”

Another expert, Noel Sharkey a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield and co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control also weighed in to the discussion, outlining the tensions between what China, the US and the UK want.

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“China wanted to discuss ‘existing and emerging technologies’ but the wording insisted on by the US and the UK is that it is only about emerging technologies."

He added:“The UK and US are both insisting that the wording for any mandate about autonomous weapons should discuss only emerging technologies. Ostensibly this is because there is concern that … we will want to ban some of their current defensive weapons like the Phalanx or the Iron Dome.

“However, if the discussions go on for several years as they seem to be doing, many of the weapons that we are concerned about will already have been developed and potentially used.”

While fully autonomous weapons have not yet come to the fore, semi-autonomous ones have been in development for a long time.

The UK's Taranis -- an unmanned stealth drone -- will reportedly complete its third and final round of test later this year.

South Korea also has a sentry robot, SGR-1, standing watch over its border with North Korea.

Developed by Samsung the bot can kill from two miles away.