You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Study: Mistrust slows unmanned systems progress

Oct. 11, 2012 - 07:59AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 11, 2012 - 07:59AM  |  
An unmanned aerial vehicle crew wheels out a Shadow 200 UAV for flight at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.
An unmanned aerial vehicle crew wheels out a Shadow 200 UAV for flight at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. (Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod / Army)
  • Filed Under

Some U.S. military operators don't trust the new generation of autonomous systems on the battlefield. That may be slowing the Pentagon's push for unmanned technologies, according to a new report.

"Unfortunately, the word ‘autonomy' often conjures images in the press and the minds of some military leaders of computers making independent decisions and taking uncontrolled action," states a recent report from the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group. "While the reality of what autonomy is and can do is quite different from those conjured images, these concerns are in some cases limiting its adoption."

The board's two-year study concluded that several cultural factors may be hindering the military's most effective use of autonomous technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned submarines and ground-based robots.

The report, completed in July and released publicly in September, recommends that military leaders emphasize the human oversight involved in unmanned technologies.

The board warns that negative perceptions pose a risk at a time when the defense budget is shrinking and autonomous systems may be vulnerable to funding cuts that delay their development. Pentagon budgets earmark nearly $32 billion for unmanned systems, mostly aircraft, from 2011 through 2015, the report says.

Effective use of unmanned systems is "hampered by doctrinal and cultural issues." Among them:

There is a lack of "senior service champions" advocating for funding and use, most likely because senior leaders do not have firsthand operational experience with these systems.

Rules of engagement may be "overly restrictive."

Systems are developed and built in a way that makes updates difficult without large-scale redesigns.

The report offers numerous reasons for the Pentagon to aggressively pursue unmanned systems, including their capacity for extended endurance on long missions and their potential to reduce manpower requirements and human casualties.

The development and acquisition process emphasizes the hardware; the Pentagon should consider making institutional changes that shift the focus to the software components, the report says.

The high wartime operational tempo of the past decade also created a difficult environment for the military to integrate new technologies, the report says.

"The urgent deployment of unmanned systems to theater left little time to refine concepts of operation which, when coupled with the lack of assets and time to support pre-deployment exercises, created operational challenges," the report says.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook