Progressive autonomy in future military forces


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How will autonomy be applied on the future battlefield? Autonomy experts from industry and the Pentagon say the most significant military use of autonomy in the coming years will replace manned reconnaissance patrols that send troops into danger to scout the enemy.

“We are really pushing robots at the forefront, in front of our formations because right now commanders are trading soldiers, their lives, for information. We can use robotics and autonomous systems to help reduce that” said Robert Sadowski, chief roboticist at the Army’s DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center.

However, there are not always as many autonomous vehicles as in the commercial sector. For example, while light detection and ranging or LIDAR is a critical aspect of autonomous utility vehicles, on the battlefield LIDAR stands for “bad guys can see me too,” according to

Cory Clothier, who leads the autonomous mobility team at engineering consultancy Stantec, said: “What will lead the way is more campus-based logistics…There is a case of use that the technology can actually handle now if it’s in a low-speed, time-limited environment.”

In the automotive industry today, elements of autonomy are creeping into the driving experience in what Jean-Charles Lede, autonomy technology advisor at the Air Force Research Laboratory, described as “microservices”. “They don’t wait or design brand new [autonomous] cars,” Lede said. “They take current cars and modify them, whether for testing or for operational use. You can’t rent a car today without having some sort of lane assist or, you know, blind spot check.

The US military can start deploying these microservices in systems now, as long as those systems have the open architectures the military wants in the future.


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