Thursday, February 03, 2011

US unmanned systems have more than budget problems to overcome

Though most experts hold a grim outlook for the Pentagon's budget, the unmanned aerial vehicle community remains in a positive mindset - at least about funding.
Unmanned systems are competing well with other varied defence interests, says Dyke Weatherington, deputy director for the Pentagon's unmanned aircraft systems at the Association for Unmanned Vechicle Systems International's (AUVSI) 2011 Unmanned Systems Program Review 2 February in Washington DC.
But UAVs face other challenges in securing their permanent position in defence arsenals, Weatherington and a panel on the future of unmanned air programmes say, particularly perception problems.
As UAVs go up against large legacy programmes like the F-35 for funding, it is under the shadow of the perception that unmanned systems are only good for the counterinsurgency operations they are currently performing, says PW Singer, Brookings Institution fellow and author of Wired for War. "That is the problem of judging a technology by where it is starting rather than where it is headed," he says, citing early resistance to and assumptions about now-indispensible military kit as machine guns and tanks as similar cases. The perception could delay effective adoption of UAVs but is unlikely to ultimately prevent it, Singer says.
One step toward breaking down that perception and taking them into new missions is a concerted effort to "blur the edges," says Jon Platts of Qinetiq. "We tend to think in terms of lumps of capability," he says. But approaching unmanned systems as sensors rather than platforms and attaching operators to a purpose rather than a platform will help change thinking, Platts says.
Open architectures and effects-based design are also key to opening more mission options to UAVs, says retired USAF Brig Gen Harold "Buck" Adams, now a principal with Booz Allen Hamilton. Bumps in the road to broader UAV acceptance should also be viewed as normal, Adams says.
"With humans, anything new meets resistance, especially at the very beginning," he says. "I'm not troubled, frankly, by the pushback I've seen. Great technology is ultimately adopted."

No comments:

Post a Comment

no offensive and abusive language please