Robotic & Autonomous Systems Strategy
War, by nature, remains an intense human activity and the use of armed force to compel change remains at its heart. The character of war is changing with the adoption of emerging and disruptive technologies. As these technologies become more available and affordable, the gap between well-equipped militaries and the motivated individual or group with a cause is closing. Therefore, sustaining and maintaining a technological edge over potential adversaries is becoming more challenging. An area where we can maintain an edge is in the large scale integration, synchronisation and coordinated employment of these technologies, coupled with superior training and decision-making.
This can be achieved through robotics and manipulation of data through advanced networks (or system of networks) that can improve the speed and accuracy of information sharing. These networks can connect soldiers to other combatants (both human and machine), the broader Army, the Joint Force and partner nations; improving situational awareness, survivability and lethality. However, adoption of emerging technologies should be considered objectively prior to acquisition to confirm the capability offered by the technology is justified and cost effective. Risk, informed through future casting, modelling, simulation and experimentation, should also be considered to ensure the right technology is adopted at the right time.
In this context RAS can be viewed as the application of software, artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to perform tasks as directed by humans. Simply “autonomy is the ability of a machine to perform a task without human input. Thus an autonomous system is a machine, whether hardware or software, once activated performs some task or function on its own”. The term autonomy can be a barrier to understanding as it is, generally, specific to a system or sub-system. Therefore, it can be misleading to refer to an autonomous platform if the entire system of systems is not autonomous. It can be helpful to consider the level of human input, how much discretion the machine has with regard to the task and what aspect of the system has been automated.
Within this strategy, RAS will span the full spectrum of human input from remote control through to full autonomy – the level of autonomy required will be determined by the role and also the maturity of the underpinning technologies such as AI.
Therefore RAS is a lens through which to describe a system, hardware and software, which has varying elements of autonomy and/or robotics and commonly both.