Unmanned systems have evolved beyond their traditional role of providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in defense missions, Amentum’s Tim Saffold told Federal News Network in a recent interview.
Saffold, the executive vice president of autonomous and unmanned systems at Amentum’s engineering, science and technology business group, said that, in terms of defense applications, unmanned platforms can now be used to launch kinetic strikes at targets.
In the area of critical infrastructure upkeep, unmanned platforms have a role to play as well. According to Saffold, his organization carried out the inspection of a chimney stack in a matter of days by fielding a drone to map the exterior and interior of the structure — a task that would otherwise have taken more time and involved using more equipment and exposing personnel to risk.
Unmanned platforms can be used for environmental surveillance as well, Saffold said. The systems can be deployed from land, air or sea, carrying miniaturized sensors that can collect data that can help inform the appropriate response to climate change.
Key to the evolution of unmanned systems is autonomy, which, for Saffold, means determining which tasks will continue to require human intervention, and which tasks will not.
Saffold also said that, to achieve automation-induced efficiency, organizations should seek to augment people with unmanned systems rather than replace them. According to Saffold, augmentation frees up people to carry out higher level work.