This reassurance to counter feelings of cyber-insecurity requires the unified efforts of solid communicators across the full spectrum of stakeholder domains – not just engineers, not just manufacturers, but urban planners, public leaders, elected officials, regulatory bodies, and community advocates, as well. They each in a different way understand best the basic emotions that motivate the public. Skeptical or fearful “passengers” may be relieved to know that most of us regular now experience travel in autonomous “vehicles.” In fact, modern commercial airliners are almost entirely self-controlled during the majority of a typical flight – while take-offs and landings are still usually performed manually by a pilot…at least for now. Imagine – that’s for a vehicle flying tens of thousands of feet above the ground at a several hundred miles an hour. So for down-to-Earth public acceptance of autonomous automobiles, this is mainly an issue of introducing the new technology paradigm gradually, in increments, to overcome natural (and understandably healthy) fear and anxiety.
On the public sector side of cybersecurity in the unmanned systems industry, are there any particular technological innovations that you believe will enable government and military agencies to protect from the possibility of data hacks and breaches against UAV/UAS that are conducting operations concerning national security?
There are many very smart, dedicated, brilliant innovators working tireless to protect UAV/UAS deployed in sensitive mission critical situations. Of course, it is a learning process involving constant iterations, as in any domain, and there have been some detours and potholes along the road to success. That is to be expected. Ultimately, I am an optimist and am confident that the “white hats” will prevail in the long run against our adversaries as a result of our tenacity for more creativity and innovative, and flat-out hard work to defeat destructive actors. Of all the machines we have ever created – not match the brilliance of the brain, or the might of our mind. The emerging counter-cyber technologies that harness this type of cognitive-based decision making will allow us to adaptive protect our systems of even unknown threats, just as our own minds adapt to unknown situations. Is in our DNA – and this type of dynamic sequencing and replication will soon power our systems to protect themselves on the cyber battlefield. It takes a village to secure a village. We if we tap into this collection cognition from all corners of our society – we will be safe.
Much of your work as a Disaster and Terrorism Adviser with FEMA has been focused on the use of UAS for international emergency situations such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan nuclear radiation leak. How do you anticipate the use of UAS for humanitarian and emergency response to progress over the next decade?
This is such an amazingly promising field where technology can serve to extend the relief capabilities of disaster and emergency response teams, while limiting the risks to individuals. Throughout the history of civilizations, we have always relied on the bravery and selflessness of heroes to respond to emergency situations, and that will not change. But anytime we can deploy a machine instead of a human rescuer into a life-threatening situation – great. The bomb disposal robots used in Iraq are a prime example, or a beach lifeguard in tough surf. This trend will only continue in civilian and military environments. One of the most fascinating fields of study here relates to how victims in emergency situations respond psychologically to the appearance of rescue robots during extreme distress, and how we can optimize their design in this regard. New research into UAS for, not just reacting to disasters, but even for persistent monitoring to predict them, could dramatically boost their lifesaving potential even more. Not all of these challenges, though are technological. Policy and governance must catch up to the innovations in order to truly leverage their rescue possibilities.
Over the past few years we’ve also seen the rise of UAS use for commercial applications such as agricultural mapping and oil/gas pipeline inspections. In your opinion, which industries not already using UAS will stand to benefit most from adopting UAS for commercial purposes?
Photography and videography in general – will continue to be among the hottest commercial applications. In addition, the promise for UAS to transform the shipping and package-delivery supply chains ultimately will prove too compelling not to be realized. This will spur entirely new production paradigms and start-up businesses, just as just-in-time 3D printing has already begun to do. However, the potent and powerful potential of the human brain will prove that, in a few years, the hottest applications will be those that we have not yet even yet imagined.
You will be leading a talk at Unmanned Systems Institute that will analyze the evolution of unmanned systems from the mid 20th century to today. As we look to the future, are there any particular developments in the rise of UAS/UAV for both public and private sector use that you find to be either particularly exciting or concerning?