significant of the findings is the recognition that many naval requirements can be fulfilled, at least in part, by AV systems already in the inventory or under development by other Services. Hence, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps should collaborate with other Services to take maximum advantage of both operational systems and systems in various stages of development. Also, the Naval Services should form an effective partnership between the operational and the technology development and production communities and develop an effective process for embracing joint and commercial programs in order to aggressively exploit existing autonomous systems and new technologies.
The committee finds that it is important to put existing AV systems in operational situations in order to give personnel experience with the systems’ capabilities, and then to develop requirements based on this experience. In particular, since the operational utility and military worth of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been demonstrated in recent military operations, it is essential that the Naval Services accelerate the introduction and/or fully exploit the capabilities of those UAV systems, from all of the military Services, that are now in production, or that have completed development.
It is also evident that there are some unique requirements for which the Naval Services must develop technologies that are not being pursued by other Services or by the civilian sector. Thus, it is important for the Navy to pursue the development of critical autonomous vehicle-related technologies considered essential to the accomplishment of future naval missions. The progress of these developments needs to be tracked year to year.
In its deliberations, the committee also found significant deficiencies in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) that now limit the utility of AVs. Therefore, it is essential that the Department of the Navy formulate and execute a comprehensive plan to eliminate these C4ISR deficiencies.
A final significant finding is that an AV’s level of autonomy is an important system variable that should be included, from the outset, in the development of AV systems. Hence it is important for the Department of the Navy to mandate that the level of autonomy be stipulated as a required design trade-off in autonomous vehicle development contracts.
The following sections elaborate on these significant findings and provide the committee’s detailed recommendations.
Operational experience with current autonomous vehicles—especially with such UAVs as the Predator, Global Hawk, and special-purpose systems used during recent conflicts—has demonstrated that, once they are employed by