The Advent of Robotic Swarms Will Further Complicate Multilateral Negotiations on Autonomous Weapons Systems

16 September 2020
The Advent of Robotic Swarms Will Further Complicate Multilateral Negotiations on Autonomous Weapons Systems

UNIDIR report sheds light on the latest advances in research and development of robotic swarms highlighting how this technological innovation might challenge the already controversial concept of meaningful human control

GENEVA, 8 APRIL 2020 — A UNIDIR report released today provides a technical and operational overview of the latest trend in the field of autonomous systems: robotic swarms. The study illustrates how such systems operate, what are some of the most advanced applications currently being researched and how they will challenge traditional concepts of military command and control.

The report, Swarm Robotics – Technical and Operational Overview of the Next Generation of Autonomous Systems, contributes to filling a gap in available literature bridging the technical element of this emerging technology with its operational use and resulting implications for international security and arms control.

“What is the appropriate multilateral response to the military use of AI? This is one of the most polarizing arms control questions of the past decade,” said Dr. Giacomo Persi Paoli, author of the report and head of the UNIDIR Security and Technology Programme.

The Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems is set to discuss and develop elements of an operational and normative framework for these technologies over the next two years. To support the work of the group, the report highlights the necessity of reviewing traditional understanding of “human control” in light of an increasingly evolved technology landscape and indicates areas requiring further analysis and discussion.


UNIDIR is a voluntarily funded, autonomous institute within the United Nations. One of the few policy institutes worldwide focusing on disarmament, UNIDIR generates knowledge and promotes dialogue and action on disarmament and security. Based in Geneva, UNIDIR assists the international community to develop the practical, innovative ideas needed to find solutions to critical security problems. For more information about UNIDIR, visit: Follow UNIDIR on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Aaron J. Buckley             Giacomo Persi Paoli
Strategic Communications
            Security and Technology
Programme Lead
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