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Budget Matters 

Autonomous Capabilities Market Set for Growth 

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By Jon Harper 


ONR's Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle - Innovative Naval Prototype

Pentagon investments in unmanned and autonomous capabilities are expected to grow as the Defense Department tries to stay ahead of advanced adversaries, according to a new report by big data analytics firm Govini, which tracks government spending trends.

“Autonomous capabilities … are uniquely positioned to solve intractable problems that exceed current manual capabilities for reasons of technical limitation and human safety, among others,” said the report titled, “Third Offset Strategy: Autonomous Capabilities Standard Market Taxonomy.”

“With the growing role of machines, operational concepts will be profoundly reshaped, resulting in opportunities for industry,” it said.

The Defense Department has reduced spending on existing unmanned aerial vehicles in the past year, with a 4.4 percent decline to $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2016 compared to the average of the previous five years. But that is because the Pentagon is focusing on research and development for next-generation platforms, the report said.

“Recent increases in UAV R&D spending is yet another sign that the market is in transition,” it said.

The unmanned ground vehicles market is also poised for a rebound, it noted. Pentagon spending in this area declined by 6.5 percent to $1 billion in 2016 compared to the average of the previous five years. But Govini anticipates a compound average growth rate of 10.2 percent in UGV investments through fiscal year 2021 as mission sets shift from explosive ordnance disposal to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Unmanned undersea vehicles are expected to be in higher demand as great power competition between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific heats up. Research-and-development spending for UUVs grew by 43 percent to $139 million in fiscal year 2016, according to Govini.

Platforms aren’t the only key component of the anticipated revolution in autonomous capabilities. The real-time processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information is critical as the speed of war is expected to increase in the coming years.

“It is the hub-and-spoke network that receives data and turns it into insight used for decisive action,” the report said. “As artificial intelligence capabilities mature, a fully-automated PED architecture will be allocated to a decision authority on problems deemed intractable or beyond human cognition.”

This expected trend is largely dependent on advancements in data science and analytics and real-time processing, it noted. Spending on data science and analytics tools grew by 39.4 percent to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2016 compared to the average of the previous five years, while real-time processing spending increased by 35.7 percent to $1.5 billion, according to Govini.

“With such capabilities in place, autonomous vehicles can reach their full potential and platform development will proliferate across domains,” the report said.

Photo: Navy
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