ASUR supports the development of underpinning technologies for all unmanned systems, however the initial target application area is Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). Although defence focused, ASUR will seek to identify and exploit opportunities for defence/civil synergies.
The technical programme supports a set of key research areas and the priority areas are defined below. Each of these research areas has a set of short, medium and long-term research objectives which have been derived in conjunction with Dstl based on the overall goals of the UAS R&D Programme.
It is expected that the validity of the themes will be subjected to continuous appraisal and will be reshaped, redefined and reprioritised from time to time in the course of the ASUR programme as circumstances develop and as research understanding matures.
Unmanned sensor multi-layer control, optimisation and exploitation
Develop one or more dynamic autonomous mission management technologies that will enable the planning and employment of an operator directed reconfigurable multi-layer Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for complex urban environments. ‘Multi-layer’ essentially means that there are lots of sensor assets (such as UAVs, manned aircraft, unmanned ground sensors etc) that we wish to take advantage of in support of the mission.
Enabling in-building operations
Technology to enable Unmanned Systems to conduct missions inside buildings (and other similarly challenging environments) where their operation is currently not possible.
Technology to enable fixed or morphing wing Micro or Mini UAS (7kg or less) to conduct missions in and around congested, cluttered and contested environments in order to provide enhanced Situational Awareness to soldiers on the ground.
Understanding Decision Making in Autonomous Systems
It is important from an operational perspective to understand how decisions emerge within complex systems, consequently requiring the design of such systems to address challenges of assurance and trust. This is particularly important for autonomous systems, which will be required to make ongoing decisions about which future actions they need to undertake, and where the number and scope of such decisions will increase significantly, accompanied by a commensurate increase in the data and information required by the process.
Once an unmanned vehicle has been tasked with a mission, the ability of the system to achieve the mission objectives should remain viable even in changing circumstances. An autonomous system needs to be able to react and re-plan in a dynamic environment, such that the mission can continue even at a reduced level.
VV&A of Autonomous Systems
It is recognised that an autonomous agent, by its very definition, will always be acting on behalf of someone else. However, the removal of humans and the changes in human decision making abstraction, introduced by autonomy systems, raises several Verification, Validation and Accreditation (VV&A) challenges.