A ban on “killer robot” weapons that are able to think for themselves could move a step closer this week.
Nations will vote on whether to consider the move at the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva on Friday.
France is calling for an international agreement not to develop fully autonomous drones that select and engage targets without human intervention.
This is a move backed by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
“Governments should begin to act now to ensure that human control over targeting and attack decisions is never relinquished to machines in the future,” said Steve Goose, from Human Rights Watch, a co-founder of the Campaign.
“Nations need to start working urgently on both national prohibitions and an international ban on these fully autonomous weapons.”
Fully independent functioning weapons do not yet exist but drones operated by the US, UK, Israel and South Korea, already have some degree of autonomy and lethality.
Some militarily hi-tech countries, such as China and Russia, are believed to be moving towards systems that would leave combat decisions to machines, say campaigners.
The concept of killer robots brings to mind sci-fi ideas of machines wiping out the human race, as explored in the Terminator films.
Such scenarios seem far fetched, but Mr Goose and his colleagues believe the dangers of releasing human control over “intelligent” weapon systems are very real.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition of 44 non-governmental organisations in 21 countries that was launched in London in April this year.