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Review of ONR's Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicles Program
Complete the vision and make it more realistic by recognizing the limited applicability of total (i.e., level 5) autonomy, adding an outline of and a timetable for human-machine partnerships through a series of intermediate visions. The mathematical and engineering sciences on which autonomous system design and evaluation will be based should be developed.
Engage other appropriate Department of the Navy UAV stakeholders and reexamine their missions to ensure that the UAV/UCAV vision responds to the needs of the whole naval community.
Complete the technology roadmaps after this reexamination.
For the critical technologies the committee recommends as follows:
Vehicle technology will evolve without being given special emphasis by an ONR S&T program. Accordingly, ONR should plan to invest only in R&D pertaining to (1) missions that are unique to the Navy, such as landing on a ship and ASW-related operations and support, and (2) overall affordability.
For communications and networking, the commercial sector will not address all the issues. ONR should focus on secure communications and dynamic networking directly, as it is doing, while continuing to exploit commercial development whenever possible.
Sensors and sensor systems hardware will evolve without special attention from an ONR S&T program. ONR should focus on software and algorithms for information extraction and fusion rather than on hardware issues. A much-better-focused program of enabling technology development and demonstration than seems to have been put in place so far is essential if limited funds are to produce significant results.
For autonomy, the commercial sector will not address all of the Navy's needs. ONR 6.1/6.2 investments are warranted in several important areas—image understanding, human-machine interaction, multientity control, and metaheuristics—as well as in a systematic examination of the scientific and engineering principles upon which autonomous operations are based. Careful coordination with other R&D programs of the Navy and the other Services is recommended. ONR should leverage commercial software to emphasize naval-unique applications, demonstrations, and exercises, and it should encourage the formation of a community focused on autonomy that facilitates communication and joint development across industry, government, and academia by means of Navy-sponsored symposia and the like. Finally, the committee recommends that ONR should specifically fund S&T efforts aimed at identifying and publishing best practices for the design, development, and evaluation of complex affordable autonomous military systems.