According to the Obama administration, between 2009 and 2015, 473 drone strikes killed about 2500 combatants and about 100 non combatants.
Last week, the Dallas Police department used a robot to kill the police shooter.
As far as I know, all of these events have had human operators, supposedly exercising human judgement.
The thing is, many reports about drones and robots leave one with the impression that these are autonomous devices, without a human in the loop. It isn’t like that.
I do not think there is a real difference between a sniper on a hilltop killing from a mile away and a drone operator killing from 10,000 miles away. Both have a human pulling the trigger. We can and should talk about ways to further reduce non-combatant deaths, but sniper rifles and drones are much safer for our guys than bayonets and hand grenades.
The real discussion ought to be about autonomous vs human-in-the-loop.
The unfortunate fact is, we already have lots of truly autonomous devices killing people on their own initiative. They are called land mines.