Pacifying killer robots through TED talks

Credit: Lian Pin Koh

Drones have been gaining a reputation for ill-doing as of late. A reputation that isn't without warrant, we'll admit. Political action groups have been set up to warn humanity of the oncoming storm of Terminator-esque autonomous killing machines. Now, following in the footsteps of the UN, a number of speakers at the recent TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh took to the stage to offer up more peaceful uses for our could-be annihilators.

Lian Pin Koh is a biologist with a penchant for all things sci-fi — and maybe that's why he spent his stage time discussing his critter-friendly fleet of drones. Each of his drones has a six foot wingspan, is equipped with a sensor suite and a mini-PC. The robots cost less than $4,000, and have been deployed across northern Sumatra to keep watch over the threatened Orangutan population there.

Other groups from across the globe have since adopted Lian Pin Koh's drones to keep an eye on environmental concerns in Switzerland, Indonesia, Madagascar, Congo, Greenland and even here in the United States. Also on hand was Greek businessman Andreas Raptopoulos who has been spear-heading a project to deliver food and suppliesto the one billion people in need across the globe.

It isn't likely that the US military is going to convert their robot swords to autonomous plowshares any time soon. But maybe projects like these will help redeem drones in the eyes of the world — until the killer robots rise up and destroy us all, that is.


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