ONR Official: Partnerships Superior to Processes in Solving Autonomy Challenges
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A senior official with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) challenged industry representatives to engage in a conversation with the Navy to solve the most difficult technical problems of unmanned systems, particularly autonomous systems.
“Solving some of the really hard technical problems” needs collaboration of like minds, Lee Mastroianni, a senior project officer at ONR, said Feb. 7 at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Defense, Security and Protection event. “There is no process in the world that can replace people who have the same of molds of mind who want to get something done.”
Mastroianni pointed out the challenges of “how we embrace autonomous systems at large,” noting that there moral and ethical issues involved, and that “our adversaries don’t care about that.”
He said that unmanned vehicles are just trucks that carry the most important facet — the payload — the enabler that gives value to the warfighter.
Mastroianni’s presentation listed the current focus of ONR’s efforts in autonomous systems.
■ For undersea autonomous systems: mobile autonomous environmental sensing, predictive capabilities and adapting systems to environmental variability.
■ For autonomous surface vehicles: performing complex tasks in a complex environment without human intervention, responding effectively to dynamic situations, and perceiving the environment, internally and externally.
■ For aerial autonomous systems: safe operations in a maritime/shipboard environment, effective collaboration with humans and an increased role with a greatly reduced need for human intervention.
■ For expeditionary autonomous systems: affordable, platform-agnostic modular autonomy kits for current and future vehicles, seamless and natural visual and verbal human-robot interaction, and multiplatform collaboration.
■ And for novel autonomous systems: multi-domain platforms, fundamental understanding of the hydrodynamics of high-efficiency, bio-inspired underwater propulsion, low-power perception and mapping for nano-UAVs, muscle-like actuators, and multi-function material control surfaces for undersea and aerial vehicles.