Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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The Army unfolds a roadmap for unmanned aircraft systems

It’s not usual for me, or anyone else that I know for that matter, to recommend a government document as a great piece of reading, but I’d stray from that norm and point to the U.S. Army Roadmap for UAS 2010-2035.

I’m not saying it’s great literature, and there’s sections of it that would serve well as a sleep aid, but for overall entertainment for the techie minded among you I think it makes the grade.

Turn first to a section that describes the far-term of the Army’s roadmap for its unmanned aircraft systems, which describes what the Army sees happening in the 2026-2035 timeframe. It talks there, among other things, about using bug-like nano UAVs to survey buildings before soldiers enter them, and use clouds of the critters operating as interlinked smart warfighting array of reconfigurable modules (SWARM) to do the same for area reconnaissance.

There’s lots of similar acronymic stuff in the document (this is the Army, after all), but most of it has a similar heft, particular that for both the far-term and mid-term (2016-2025) chapters.

Taken individually, none of the technologies will come as a surprise as they’ve been talked of before. But the roadmap provides a context for how they will work together, and it promotes a grand vision that’s pretty sweeping. Twenty years from now, battlefields and the skies over American itself could be filled with these flying robots.

There are provisos, of course, as there always is. The military overall wants as many unmanned aircraft as it can get it hands on, but the Government Accountability Office recently warned that the military’s ability to handle the number it already has is stretched. And then there’s a small matter about making sense of all of the data these things produce.

Pshaw! Don’t let these piddling matters interfere with the dream. Read the thing first. Reality can come later.

Posted on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 22, 2010

It's too easy to be smart-alecky. A roadmap is, as you said, a 'vision' document. If you only look at current capabilities, then what's the point? Roadmaps help focus on desired future capabilities and the challenges that must be addressed (by govt, industry, & academia) to meet them. We won't achieve them all, but we stretch our military capabilities in a conscious direction.

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