UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Armed Services Describe Their Needs and Funding Limitations
What They Want and Can Afford
TYSON’S CORNER, Virginia – Money is tight while national security threats keep evolving, so the Defense Department plans to be careful about what robots, droids and drones it can buy in the future.
That was the overall message from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps leaders over three days this month at the Unmanned Systems 2014 Program Review, a government robotics conference hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Even though they expect funds for robots and drones to be limited, they say demand will grow for unmanned vehicles – especially ones that can get into small or unsafe spaces like tunnels or denied airspace — to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information for troops in the field.
All of the services are looking for unmanned systems that share common controllers and other hardware/software. And they want them interoperable so troops on the ground, in the air or at sea – no matter which service – will be able to communicate with all unmanned systems and coordinate their activities.
So here’s a look at some of the capabilities the armed services are looking for.
The Defense Department’s Joint Staff is developing a Joint Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems, expected in the summer of 2018, according to Army Col. Charles Bowery of the Joint Staff Robotic and Autonomous Systems Team (JRAST). He said the concept report targets the 2025-2030 time frame and will reflect improved ways for “developing, deploying and acquiring those technologies.” Chartered in 2014, the JRAST seeks to synchronize Robotic and Autonomous Systems development, acquisition, and employment across the Defense Department.
The Army is not buying any new UAS in the near future but it isn’t getting rid of any either. Army plans call for pairing the MQ- 1 Gray Eagle and smaller RQ-7 Shadow UAS with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to perform the scouting mission once performed by the OH-58 Kiowa manned scout helicopter, which is being retired.
“All of my portfolios are essentially looking at what is the amount of financing or money that is available to meet the requirements,” said Army Major General Robert Dyess, director of Force Development in the financial management (G-8) section of the Army Staff.
On ground vehicles, he told conference attendees, the Amy had just completed joint testing of the Autonomous Mobility Applique System which showed the ability to “essentially, I believe, turn any vehicle in the motor pool – at the commander’s assessment – into a vehicle that has either a semi-autonomous or autonomous type of capability.”
The Navy has only one program of record for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS), a family of robotic systems ranging from a 35-pound robot that can be carried in a backpack to a vehicle-towed unit weighing about 750 pounds.
Tom Dee, deputy assistant of the Navy for Expeditionary Program and Logistics Management, said the Navy is looking for UGVs that not only replace humans in dangerous situations, but can be force enablers.
“We want to make them team mates with our squads, to be able to assist us, not just to replace us doing things that we’re concerned about doing” like bomb disposal, Dee said. .” He added that AEODRS would be built using open architecture and modular design that would allow the Navy to “plug and play” new developments in sensors, cameras or robotic arms onto a common platform.
Daniel Sternlicht, head of the Sensing Sciences Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, said the Navy is looking to improve sensor capabilities as it transitions from a time and manpower intensive method for detecting, identifying and neutralizing explosive mines in the shallows near shore to an unmanned, sensor-driven one.
Among the capabilities sought in this eventual shift is the ability to neutralize a target mine in a single pass or sortie by an unmanned underwater vehicle rather than multiple passes by manned aircraft or surface vessels, said Sternlicht.
The Office of Naval Research is developing a compact modular sensor package that can be mounted on an MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and detect and classify targets in real time. The Compact Modular Sensor Suite could also speed up the process by eliminating the need for post-mission analysis by a manned aircraft.
Entry filed under: Aircraft, Army, Marine Corps, Naval Warfare, Technology, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: aerospace, Army, AUVSI, Navy, robotics, Topics, UAS, UAV, unmanned aircraft, unmanned systems.