FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 23, 2014
By: David Smalley, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—On the heels of a vibrant meeting between some of the nation’s top minds in autonomy and unmanned systems, officials at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced Jan. 23 they will host a similar gathering of experts on the subject of information dominance and C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) later this year.
The events, called Focus Area Forums, are an initiative of Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, the chief of naval research. The goal: bring together experts and find new and low-cost ways to support Navy and Marine Corps priorities—and advance disruptive technologies for our Sailors and Marines.
“The lifeblood of scientific research is generating new ideas and sharing information,” said Klunder. “Bringing together multiple experts for a day allows us to really dive into the heart of various topics, to advance new ideas and technologies, and address challenges.”
Nearly 200 participants came to the Jan. 15 forum from across government, military services, academia, think tanks and industry to learn, share ideas, meet with ONR program officers and engage directly with senior naval leaders. [See video highlights of the event.]
This was ONR’s first Focus Area Forum, and officials say the topic of autonomy is well-timed as the future force will increasingly rely on a hybrid of manned and unmanned capabilities—and as potential adversaries advance and build inexpensive threats.
“Unmanned systems and autonomy are force multipliers,” said Klunder.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has noted the importance to the Navy and Marine Corps of staying on the cutting edge of autonomy and unmanned systems. In his Sailing Directions, Greenert notes: “The reach and effectiveness of ships and aircraft will be greatly expanded through…unmanned systems,” and adds that “unmanned systems in the air and water will employ greater autonomy” in future operations.
Participants expressed strong support for the importance of the forum.
“One of the keys to advancing the field of autonomy is creating new collaborations across different disciplines that can bring important new ideas and methods to the research,” said Dr. Marc Steinberg, the Science of Autonomy program officer at ONR.
Norah Ayanian, a computer scientist researching multi-robot coordination and human interaction at the University of Southern California, said: “I think this forum has been great—I am having a lot of really good conversations with people. Having just started, I am looking for collaborators, so I found a lot of people that have complimentary interests.”
Information dominance and C4I, the topics of the next forum, logically follow up autonomy, experts say, since the primary mission of many unmanned systems is intelligence gathering. The Navy and Marine Corps are greatly interested in information dominance, as technology has advanced in quantum leaps in recent years and potential adversaries have invested heavily in advanced technologies designed to challenge U.S. advantages in the information domain.
“Innovative, forward-leaning C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] systems will be required for future autonomous networked sensors above, on and below the seas,” Klunder said. “When we combine this with our emphasis on electromagnetic maneuver warfare, we believe we are positioning our Sailors and Marines to best address future threats.”
ONR efforts in this field include work in computer network operations, tactical communication networks, command and control capabilities and more.
Officials say they hope to hold that Focus Area Forum by early summer.
For More Information About the Forum:
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.