Lawfare Drone Smackdown

Lawfare Drone Smackdown: Revised Rules

By Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, September 2, 2012, 8:54 PM

The Lawfare Drone Smackdown has grown, preparations have continued at a feverish pace, and with growth and practical experience, we have found that our LOAC of drone combat has become impractical and needs updating. So in a hurriedly-convened Email-Based Geneva Convention of the Smackdown, the combatants have revised the rules. Here is the current version--subject to any further revisions that our consensus-based negotiations process might produce.

The Lawfare Drone Smackdown will take place on Sunday, September 23 at 2:00 pm at Fort Reno Park in Washington DC. In the event that weather does not permit the Smackdown to take place at that time, it will be rescheduled for a time mutually agreed upon by the combatants. So far, we have six committed participants: (1) Alice Beauheim, (2) yours truly, (3) Paul Rosenzweig and his robot engineer grandchildren, (4) John Procter, (5) Bill Love, and (6) Colin Glover.

All agree to the following rules:

(1) All entries in the Drone Smackdown must consist of an AR Parrot Drone 2.0, as modified by the entrant.

(2) Proper modifications include any changes that do not cumulatively exceed $200 in cost and the operation of which do not violate any applicable laws in Washington D.C. Each entrant must fly his or drone personally but will be allowed a team of helpers to operate any weapons systems or otherwise support flight and combat operations.

(3) The Drone Smackdown will be held as a tournament, in which drones will be paired for however many rounds of to-the-death combat are required to identify the last drone capable of flying. If no more teams enter the Smackdown and there are thus six entries, the Smackdown will consist of an initial round three mano a mano dogfights, followed by a final round of one three-way fight. If more entrants materialize, the Smackdown will consist of a simple single-elimination tournament until no more than three drones remain---at which point the remaining drones will fight it out in a final match.

(4) All seeding and matching of drones will be at the sole and unreviewable discretion of Shane Harris, the Smackdown's Judge, save that the initial round of dogfighting shall include a match between my entry and that of Alice Beauheim so as to honor the Original Understanding of the Smackdown.

(5) As Parrot drones are relatively easy to knock out of the air, it is not enough to cause another drone to crash to eliminate it. A drone that can be relaunched is still in the competition if it can be relaunched within 60 seconds. A drone is out of the competition when it has been rendered incapable of continued participation. Disputes concerning when a drone has been eliminated are to be resolved in the unreviewable judgment of the Smackdown's Judge.

(6) It has been brought to our collective attention that nothing in the prior rules would preclude ground-to-air missiles or even swatting a drone with a baseball bat. It has also been brought to our attention that nothing in the prior rules would preclude attacks by drones on human pilots of competing drones. Moreover, it has further been brought to our attention that some people might conceivably see attacks on drones as violating this law or some other of the many laws that prohibit maliciously destroying other people's property. Consequently, all entrants in the Smackdown acknowledge the possibility of their drone's destruction and authorize any and all efforts by other Smackdown participants to destroy their drone. But ballistics, battering devices, projectiles, nets, and water guns must be mounted on a combatant drone and cannot be launched from the ground. Moreover, air attacks on ground targets of any kind are prohibited. Any disputes under this rule shall be resolved in the unreviewable judgment of the Smackdown's Judge.

(7) Parrot drone battery life is short–no more than about 15 minutes. Consequently, each entrant will be permitted one battery-change-landing, during which any aspect or feature of the drone and its weapon systems may be serviced. The battery-change-break cannot exceed two minutes.

(8) To ensure that all drones active in the Smackdown have adequate battery power, I will arrange for a charging station, and all entrants agree that batteries will be pooled. All entrants in the Smackdown will bring two fully-charged batteries, and agree that--if their drone is eliminated--their batteries will be recharged for use by drones still active in the Smackdown. In the event that there is an insufficient supply of charged batteries to continue the Smackdown, the Smackdown will recess for 90 minutes while batteries recharge.

(9) In any preliminary round, a drone that runs down both of its batteries and cannot continue the fight is eliminated. In the final round, however, one cannot win the Smackdown by being the last drone to run out of fuel. To eliminate a drone from the final round of the Smackdown, one has to damage it to the point of its being unable to continue, not just to outlast it. If two or more drones both survive long enough that the Judge calls the match based on battery life, neither drone has won. The Smackdown is a draw.

(10) No drone can be attacked while it is on the ground either following a crash or during its battery-change-break.

(11) All drone teams are invited--but not required--to make a video or write a guest post detailing their preparations and strategy for the Smackdown. These will be posted on Lawfare after the Smackdown.

(12) All teams will endeavor to record their Smackdown matches using their drone's on-board cameras. In addition, I will arrange for ground-based video to be taken of all Smackdown rounds. All video taken will be made available to Lawfare to post.

(13) No surprise entries will be allowed. If you want to enter a drone in the Smackdown, please contact me at least a week in advance.

(14) These rules are adopted by the unanimous consent of the combatants and are subject to revision only by the unanimous agreement of the combatants.