UAVs: Developing Autonomous Fighting Machines

UAVs: Developing Autonomous Fighting Machines
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Here’s an interesting insight on some UK’s armed forces research programs on autonomous fighting machines. In the last decade UAV have evolved from simple piloted drones to more autonomous aircrafts, flying autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans using more complex dynamic automation systems.

Autonomous and Unmanned aircrafts use is on the rise in the US Armed forces. While the number of aircraft will stay around the current size of 5,500,the DoD will nearly double the number of mid-size to large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the next nine years, going from about 340 to 650 by 2012, according to the DoD congressionally mandated Aircraft Procurement Plan 2012-2041.

“The Engineer” explores different UK studies to increase the degree of autonomy of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles on the battle field.

“The use of autonomous systems in defense industries will likely increase, as the United Kingdom’s armed forces have asked for studies involving both air- and land-based unmanned vehicles. Several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as Watchkeeper, a reconnaissance drone, and Scavenger, a surveillance and attack bot, are on schedule to be deployed within 10 years.

Ground-based autonomous vehicles, such as Pointer, an autonomous robot vehicle, and Raider, a reconfigurable vehicle, also are in development. “The basic premise is you want the robots to worry about the basic mechanics of their coordination and whatever they’re doing on the battlefield and surveillance site on their own,” says University of Southampton professor Nick Jennings. “Humans are better at making decisions at a strategic level, but working out how best to cover [an] area in the most efficient way and where each element of the swarm is in relation to the other elements would be worked out by the UAVs themselves.”

Researchers are currently working on developing the control systems for unmanned vehicles, focusing on the systems’ operability. “We’re concentrating heavily on non-line-of-sight communication and, even more critically, the navigational algorithms,” says BAE researcher Hisham Awad.”

Source: The Engineer via ACM TechNews

Photo Credits: Reaper UAV of 39 Sqn RAF at Creech Air Force Base, USA By UK Ministry of Defence/ FlickR