March 30, 2016 / 7:10 PM / a year ago

Pentagon mulls future use of drones to assist manned aircraft

Various U.S. military drones are seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is examining how it might use unmanned craft in the future to accompany piloted battlecraft, likely starting with drones that would fly alongside manned aircraft, a senior Pentagon official said on Wednesday.

The concept of such assistance was most likely to take shape first in the air and at sea, before being implemented on the ground, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a gathering of defense experts hosted by the Washington Post.

Large defense contractors are always looking for insight into where the U.S. Defense Department may be heading in its future technology use.

Apart from unmanned attack drones that already launch strikes while being commanded from afar, Work mentioned that unmanned helicopters have been used to supply U.S. troops in parts of Afghanistan.

Work stressed that the United States would maintain human command over its unmanned systems and would not delegate the authority to kill, although he said he was concerned that other countries might not do the same.

“There’s two things that really keep me up at night .. .The first is adversaries who will give machines lethal authority and how will we respond to that,” Work said.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Frances Kerry and David Gregorio

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