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Over recent decades, the world has experienced a growing demand for and reliance upon unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to perform a broad spectrum of applications to include military operations such as surveillance/reconnaissance and strike/attack. As UAS technology matures and capabilities expand, especially with respect to increased autonomy, acquisition professionals and operational decision makers must determine how best to incorporate advanced capabilities into existing and emerging mission areas. This research seeks to predict which autonomous UAS capabilities are most likely to emerge over the next 20 years as well as the key challenges for implementation for each capability. Employing the Delphi method and relying on subject matter experts from operations, acquisitions and academia, future autonomous UAS mission areas and the corresponding level of autonomy are forecasted. The study finds consensus for a broad range of increased UAS capabilities with ever increasing levels of autonomy, but found the most promising areas for research and development to include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission areas and sense and avoid and data link technologies.


This is an open access article published by and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. CC BY 4.0

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