In the past decade, unmanned systems (UxS) have more than proven their combat effectiveness. They have cemented their presence on the battlefield. Now, as the associated article here points out, unmanned systems must prove themselves to be cost effective. But there is a third achievement that UxS will need as they mature and integrate with existing systems; unmanned systems will have to find their true names.
It is a common trait of emerging technology that it begins with names that describe what it is not rather than describing what it is. Virtually every life-altering technology has experienced this shift. Early automobiles were called “horseless carriages.” Early radios were called “wireless sets.”
We can see this same pattern with unmanned systems. The vocabulary that has emerged around UxS struggles to describe what this revolutionary technology really is. The two words that typify this situation are the adjectives most frequently applied: unmanned and autonomous.