The key to attaining the long-sought goal of fully autonomous unmanned ground vehicles may lie in their ability to recognize reality. Scientists pursuing the development of truly independent robotic vehicles are finding that perception is the key hurdle they must overcome. The development of these vehicles hinges on solving problems relating to perception and its data processing.
The groundwork for the rapid achievements of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom was laid in the years before those two wars even loomed on the U.S. national horizon, according to the general who led coalition forces in both victories. Long-term efforts in peacetime placed U.S. forces in a position to ramp up quickly for wars that achieved their main goals quickly.
Direct database presentation is pushing PowerPoint out of the way for a U.S. Navy fleet commander. A pilot project for the Second Fleet has changed the admiral's briefs from static factual displays to near-real-time Web-based presentations that allow users to access in-depth information through extensible markup language, or XML.
The race is on for super-advanced, beyond-next-generation technologies. Vying for a cash prize of $1 million, teams of engineers, software developers and car enthusiasts are taking on the challenge to create totally autonomous robotic ground vehicles that can travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a designated course within a specified amount of time. The competition is part of a new program the military has developed to tap into the ingenuity of inventors throughout the United States who will design seemingly impossible capabilities that one day may be as commonplace in military operations as Predators.
The U.S. Joint Forces Command is examining the concept of permanent joint force headquarters units that would integrate the military disciplines involved in planning and executing operations. The headquarters could also be the focal point for drawing together the assets of various government agencies. Military leaders believe this could be a new step in the evolution of military affairs.
The U.S. Army is changing its combat philosophy to resemble more closely those of the other services. Instead of being the armored force that can absorb whatever an enemy hurls at it and respond in kind, the transformed Army will rely on advanced technologies to prevent an enemy from inflicting harm on U.S. forces. This new approach could include eluding adversaries and their weaponry, or striking first before the foe can bring its weapons to bear.
Virtually every piece of military electronics hardware, from the simplest handheld personal computing assistant to the most powerful mainframe computer, faces the challenge of interoperability to fit into the U.S. Defense Department's Global Information Grid. Designed as the ultimate military networking project, the grid is a cornerstone for achieving the information superiority outlined in the department's Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020.
Warfighters may experience some frustration as well as exhilaration in the network-centric environment. Today's multinational exploration of emerging technologies has uncovered some new challenges that military forces face as they push the envelope on new capabilities. More than a decade of systematically examining technical interoperability issues has led to smoother execution of the technology demonstration and maturation process and realistic expectations on the part of both industry and the military.
The next step in network-centric warfare will be the creation of networked sensing suites that tailor their observations to the adversary's rate of activity. These various sensors will concentrate on observing changes rather than on observing scenery.
The U.S. Defense Department is transforming its intelligence infrastructure to meet the revolutionary changes that the military is undergoing. The very nature of intelligence is changing with the revamping of the force, and its application promises to be a key issue in the success of that overall military transformation.