The Economic Calculus of Fielding Autonomous Fighting Vehicles Compliant with the Laws of Armed Conflict

Evan Wallach
Erik Thomas
18 Yale J.L. & Tech. 1

The U.S. military and others worldwide have undergone a rapid evolution in the numbers, sophistication and lethality of the robotic weaponry that they deploy to the battlefield. The rate of transformation in the field of robotics and weapons technology raises numerous questions about what legal considerations should be made as we approach the step beyond remotely controlled drone weaponry to fully autonomous fighting vehicles as human operated weapons evolve into self- directed warriors. This Article examines the interplay between the obligation to produce legally compliant weapons and their economic costs, and assesses how these costs may influence AFV design. Based upon our analysis of this relationship we provide recommendations to policymakers, including technical design improvements, cost/compliance policy considerations, modifications to increase command battlefield legal compliance awareness, and increased policymaker awareness of AFVs’ legal compliance advantages.