FIGURE 7-1 Integrated UAV control scenario.

  • built-in intelligence, or control “smarts,” designed into system architectures and into onboard and off-board processing elements

  • the allocation of tasks and construction of interfaces between humans and capable machines

  • the capacity, security, and robustness built into communications links

  • specialty sensors and actuators, especially MEMS devices, to support some of the unconventional aerodynamics described in Chapter 3

Although other elements in Figure 7-1 are also critically important to the overall UAV system, the committee believes less compelling cases can be made for USAF basic research in these areas. For example, the development of onboard and off-board hardware and software technologies for information processing, storage, and display is being driven by the commercial marketplace, and USAF investments will generally have only a small effect. Similarly, conventional actuators, such as hydraulic actuators and EMAs, require more support for engineering development and manufacture than for basic research. Finally, the payload requirements are very specific to the devices in question (e.g., radar, electrooptical and infrared sensors, communication repeaters, and weapons), and research support for them would be more appropriately provided by the relevant scientific and engineering subspecialties.

The subsections briefly describe the committee’s findings regarding current capabilities, identify basic research needs, and recommend specific research by the USAF.

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