Regarding the movie "Stealth
", I have no doubt that there will be viewers of the
movie who come to this website asking about autonomous UCAVs and can they become a selfaware, artificially intelligent, seemingly demon possessed
machines bent on the destruction of mankind?
When you see posts like that please inform them that NO it cannot happen - at least with the state of technology available today and it won't for
many years to come - if ever.
So before the movie "Stealth" comes out I think it is a reasonable thing to let it be known the actual state of autonomy in unmanned vehicles.
Over the past 18 months or so I've been working with various aspects of sensory and information dispersion and interpretation for UAV's.
I therefore believe that I have perhaps a small amount of knowledge when it comes to this particular subject.
The state of autonomous technology for UAVs:
Great strides have been made in recent years concerning autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, for example the Global Hawk and it's autonomous flight
from California to Australia.
But the term "unmanned" is a bit missleading at least in the current state of technology. There may be no man actually in the aerial vehicle, but
rest assured nearly all UAV systems depend on human interaction and command for completion of any mission.
"Autonomy" has been the longstanding goal for unmanned vehicle development and that by definition would mean the capability of completing a mission
without any input from external influences... But by this definition autonomy will probably not happen for many years to come - at least with UCAV's
conducting weapon deliveries on targets - more on that later.
There are 2 essential areas of technology that are being developed in order to accomplish autonomy for a UCAV:
1. Visual interpretation of video images (Visual recognition)
2. The ability to Act on the information provided via visual recognition.(Decision making and Action)
More on Visual Recognition:
A typical UAV mission of reconnaisance & attack (multimission platform) would be greatly enhanced with visual recognition. This will be and is
accomplished by loading into the the UCAV's ISR management module 3 dimensional images of nearly all the possible targets the UCAV may encounter. If
there is a question the UCAV's operator may intervene.
The UAV "learns" what is a target of opportunity and what is a benign or innocuous object by comparing the imaging it gathers in realtime via it's
variable bandwidth electro-optics to the images it has stored in it's library of 3D potential targets.
The archived images are warped using sophisticated alogorythms to match the altitude and angle that the UCAV "sees", thereby enabling the system to
discern whether the object is friend or foe.
These sophisticated alogorythms are called "Fuzzy Logic" which applies logic to variables thus utilizing less math than linear regression which
requires much more processing power.
Acting on Information:
Even though this is being worked on don't expect the DoD to permit an autonomous UCAV to attack without final clearance and permission from the human
operator or overseer. The legal ramifications of a mistake are huge and no defense industry company wants to be liable for a machine of their creation
attacking the wrong target.
A word on UCAV's and the Kill Chain:
The Kill Chain consists of 6 "links"; Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage and Assess, (FFTTEA). To put it in more detail, it is the ability to locate,
discern, and track targets and to employ the best weapons available to achieve the desired lethal effects; then to assess results and to reengage
speedily as required.
Expect to see more and more Multi-mission platforms containing both C4ISR and weapons delivery systems for a further enhancement of the FFTTEA
doctrine - the F-22, F-35 and nearly all UAVs from this point forward are being developed as multi-mission platforms.
What autonomy of multi-mission platform UCAVs accomplishes is an efficient compressing of the "kill chain" and enabling realization of the USAF's
doctrine of putting weapons on time sensitive targets in single-digit minutes as opposed to half hours or hours...
And now, Back to the Movie...
Anyway, I've sort of been rambling, but do remember... as the movie "Stealth" comes out and questions are asked regarding "Terminator" UCAV's
trying to destroy humanity - Just say NO. With all the technical sophistication of todays systems and tomorrow's... a human will still have to give
the system permission to engage a target.
[edit on 11-7-2005 by intelgurl]