Boeing is joining forces with Australia’s Trusted Autonomous Systems in developing machine learning and AI for unmanned jet aircraft.

The initial project will work on route planning, location, identified objects, and the drones’s subsequent responses.

Boeing did not mention if weaponry was associated with this project.

Dr. Shane Arnott, director of Boeing Phantom Works, said the forthcoming research and development phase has specific tactical outcomes.

“Over the next 12 months, Boeing Australia will design and test cognitive AI algorithms to enable sensing under anti-access conditions and to navigate and conduct enhanced tactics in denied environments,” he said.

Trusted Autonomous Systems is a Defence Cooperative Research Centre (DCRC) established in 2017 with initial funding of $50 million for seven years.

Professor Jason Scholz, CEO of the DCRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems, said the drone systems would be welcomed by Australian armed forces.

“Together with Boeing, we are investing in advanced technology that can have real game-changing product outcomes for our military to match the evolving threats and achieve a sustainable autonomous industry for Australia.”

Trusted Autonomous Systems has the stated aim of developing self-sufficient, self-determining, and self-aware systems for military use.

It also aims to “educate in the ethics and legal aspects of autonomous systems” while influencing national policy and regulation.

Autonomous lethal military systems are a contentious issue because of a lack of international oversight in the way they are developed.

Earlier this month, the US military began looking for an AI ethicist, indicating an awareness for militaries to tackle the ethical concerns around potential killer robots.

An Australian Department of Defence spokesperson has told Information Age that it is researching AI and autonomous systems that comply with international law.

“The Australian Defence Force acquires and operates all weapons systems – now and into the future – in accordance with Australia’s international and domestic legal obligations, including humanitarian law,” the spokesperson said.

Despite extensive lobbying efforts, lethal autonomous weapons have not been banned by the UN.