Here's a Thought: The Pentagon Wants Thinking' Drones

By Hamilton, Scott | National Defense, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Here's a Thought: The Pentagon Wants Thinking' Drones


Hamilton, Scott, National Defense


* The deployment of hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles in the Afghan and Iraq wars may only scratch the surface of what's to come, if the vision of some military leaders comes to pass.

UAVs have gained favor as ways to reduce risk to combat troops, the cost of hardware and the reaction time in a surgical strike.

For Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the possibilities of the UAVs evolution from today's design to tomorrow's vision can't come soon enough. This portends more UAVs, digital versus analog, better technology, combat-capable and cognitive functions.

Changing UAVs from analog to digital surveillance dramatically reduces the number of personnel required to carry out the same missions.

"It takes 19 analysts to run a Predator," Cartwright said at a recent forum sponsored by the investment bank Credit Suisse. "We just started fielding sensors that can take a single Predator and move it to 64 simultaneous sharing points on the Earth. I can't stand that math. I don't have that many analysts."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Digitizing the surveillance recordings from UAVs not only reduces the number of analysts required, it minimizes the challenges of humans plowing through hours and hours of images in their effort to identify the bad guys or targets. Digital technology can perform these tasks quicker and more accurately.

This also goes straight to endurance, which is a key issue for the armed forces.

"Pilots get tired after five or six hours and start missing things," Cartwright said. UAVs can remain aloft for 12 or 24 hours or even five days or more. To provide the equivalent amount of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage by conventional means requires scores of service members and hugely expensive airplanes.

"Our biggest capital investments are people," Cartwright told the conference.

Cartwright said the military is putting personnel "in the wrong place. We are under-utilizing them. Our platforms today outperform a human being in endurance. They are soon going to start outperforming a human being in a mechanical, physical ability to withstand the forces and maneuverability that [the platforms] can put them through."

For all the advantages UAVs show, however, it is the prospect of adding cognitive power that excites Cartwright the most.

"The competitive edge quite frankly isn't in either [endurance and digital capabilities], it is in the cognitive power we can put into those platforms to operate and inter-operate with each other without the intervention of a human being. The leverage is probably going to be greatest on the cognitive side, without people in them," Cartwright said.

"It's not science fiction; it is easily obtainable," Cartwright said. "It's just that we are not going after it, and we're going to have to."

This doesn't mean that people will be totally cut out of the equation.

"Gen. Cartwright is not at the stage where we should go all the way to 'X' in terms of cognitive power," said an officer familiar with his thinking. For example, Pentagon lawyers are concerned that robots such as UAVs should not have the capability to make life-and-death combat decisions because of the possibility of civilian and friendly casualties. But some experts insist the machines may be less prone to such mistakes because they have greater cognitive recognition and they don't tire as easily as a service member.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"If you have identified ethical concerns, how do you explore technology in context of ethical concerns?" asked the officer. "You can't take the human factor out entirely. You ask, 'What do we want to accomplish, what do we want to achieve, and we look at things such as, where is the trigger-puller? You could potentially put the trigger puller somewhere else."

The overall approach is called observe, orient, design, act, or OODA. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Here's a Thought: The Pentagon Wants Thinking' Drones
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.