- NetworkWorld -
Such intelligent unmanned aircraft were described in the Air Force's wide-ranging "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047" report which outlines the service's future use of drones. The report details major new responsibilities for unmanned aircraft from the ability to refuel other aircraft to the capacity to swarm multiple drones on a single target.
And of course the capability to attack enemy targets on its own.
In 2047 technology onboard an unmanned aircraft will be able to observe, evaluate and act on a situation in micro or nanoseconds. According to the Air Force: "Increasingly humans will no longer be "in the loop" but rather "on the loop" - monitoring the execution of certain decisions. Simultaneously, advances in AI will enable systems to make combat decisions and act within legal and policy constraints without necessarily requiring human input." The loop in this case is a concept known as observe-orient-decide-act or OODA which describes the process by which a person or computer would go through before taking action.
There obviously would be some stopgap measures. The Air Force went on to say that assuming the decision is reached to allow some degree of aircraft autonomy, commanders must retain the ability to refine the level of autonomy the systems will be granted by mission type, and in some cases by mission phase, just as they set rules of engagement for the personnel under their command today.