US DoD releases Unmanned Systems Roadmap through 2032

The United States Department of Defense has released its roadmap through 2032 (link to actual report at the bottom of the page; large PDF warning) for unmanned systems in the military. For this first time, this report includes not only unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) but also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater and surface vehicles (UUVs and USVs); previous reports had focused primarily on UGVs.

This is a very long but pretty fascinating read, particularly the president's budget through 2013 for funding in the three areas (section 2.4). It's really interesting to see that the UGVs like PackBots and Talons seem to be way ahead of other unmanned systems, with the R&D budget drastically decreasing over the next several years as the procurement budget skyrockets. The UAVs and UUVs, on the other hand, will still have a lot of R&D money pumped into them over the next several years. UAVs seem to be most popular with the highest overall procurement budget.

The report also goes into a nice explanation of the Dull/Dirty/Dangerous mantra that is so popular with American robotics development:

  • For the dull, allows the ability to give operators normal mission cycles and crew rest.

  • For the dirty, increases the probability of a successful mission and minimizes human

    exposure.

  • For the dangerous, lowers the political and human cost if the mission is lost.

Lower downside risk and higher confidence in mission success are two strong motivators for continued expansion of unmanned systems across a broad spectrum of warfighting and peacetime missions.

There's also some good stuff on standardization and interoperability within the industries, including things like message format and processor speed. This will be good reading for the CTOs and budding entrepreneurs out there.

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