Keeping the Human Involved

The future dependence on autonomy will dramatically change the manpower makeup of the remotely piloted aircraft force, and it will take humans even more out of the intelligence gathering and targeting process. However, people will not completely be out of the process. The Air Force now has humans physically flying MQ-1B Predators and MQ-9 Reapers in ground stations, and “that can’t happen in the future,” said Col. Brandon Baker, director of remotely piloted aircraft capabilities. The service needs to take the man “out of the loop” and put the man “on the loop”—instead of having a pilot in control of one aircraft, have the pilot in charge of a fleet of small UAS systems that can largely operate autonomously. But still a human will be in charge of decision making for airstrikes, Baker said. The service’s SUAS Flight Plan, released on Tuesday, includes more smaller aircraft systems, including wingmen aircraft that will operate as “weapons mules” for manned aircraft and even serve as decoys for attack aircraft. (See also: The Future of Autonomy Isn’t Autonomous.) (Read the report; Caution, large-sized file.)