With names like Predator and Reaper, it is no surprise that the ethics behind the rapid advancement of military unmanned systems have come into question. The idea of autonomous robots equipped with machine guns, sniper-rifles, grenade launchers and the like has inspired a variety of apocalyptic scenarios, the most familiar of which are captured by modern blockbuster films like “The Terminator” and “iRobot.”
The Department of Defense expects to continue its heavy investment into creating various levels of autonomy for unmanned systems in battle-space awareness and force application tasks.
But the civilian population can rest assured that these robots will not become fully automated until legal rules of engagement and safety concerns have all been thoroughly examined and resolved; when pulling a trigger, human intervention is still required, and will remain required for a very long time.
Alterative flavors of military robots, particularly those that aid in protection and logistics, are playing an increasingly vital role in maintaining a competitive edge in national security. These robots are immune to fatigue, sleep-deprivation, lack of visibility and other performance hindering conditions, all the while performing tasks that are too dull, dirty or dangerous to warrant the risk of human life.
In order to help make the Warfighter more effective, the DoD expects to spend $8B USD on unmanned systems research, development, test and evaluation by 2014. Federal policies will attempt to ensure that all levels of corporations, including small-to-mid sized businesses, are guaranteed a fair share of the unmanned systems market.
Companies looking for a strategic advantage will look to the increasing variety and sophistication of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies and open, intuitive design platforms to bring these rapidly evolving technologies together.