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ROBO-COPTER: TALK TO ME

dvd-122-1.jpg"See that building over there? Bomb the hell out of it."That's how easy the Pentagon wants commanding its Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR) to be, Aerospace Daily reports. The drone copter, scheduled to come on line around 2012, should be able to act on verbal commands -- and respond back in plain English, too.Although the idea might seem far-fetched, "that's today's technology," [UCAR program manager Don] Woodbury said. "The U.S. is behind the rest of the world in this area. There are at least three aircraft fielded today that have [voice command] capability in the cockpit." Outside of UCAR, very little work on voice command of aircraft is taking place in the U.S., according to Woodbury.DARPA hopes to develop UCAR's voice command system mostly with off-the-shelf technology, Woodbury said. Such technology could have application to manned aircraft such as the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter as well, he said. "Even without UCAR, it might be useful for ... Apache pilots to be able to interact with their machines verbally," he said. "They ought to be looking outside the cockpit where the targets are."Jointly managed by DARPA and the Army, the $500 million UCAR program is attempting to develop a highly autonomous unmanned combat helicopter that can work in groups, engage in close combat at the nap of the Earth, and operate seamlessly with other manned and unmanned Army systems. The helicopter is being designed to accommodate a number of possible weapons, including the Joint Common Missile (JCM) and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), although it always will require human consent before firing.The UCAR will be tasked through the Army's existing command and control architecture rather than through a dedicated ground station, accepting commands from personnel in ground vehicles, other aircraft, or even dismounted. With its enhanced autonomy and onboard artificial intelligence, UCAR would be able to operate on a "much longer leash" than traditional unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Woodbury.

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