The next big thing for unmanned naval aviation is a group of unmanned aerial systems that can share information and then assign tasks and make strategic targeting decisions based on available intelligence.
This concept, called Motley Crew, will be demonstrated by the Navy in 2018 or 2019, said Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, the service's program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.
Speaking at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space conference Tuesday, Darrah said there are many factors still to be decided -- which unmanned systems to feature, for example, and what the target sets would be -- but the goal is clear: Develop autonomous systems that could be strategic, collaborative and efficient.
"Imagine, if you would, different weapons flying in the same airspace, communicating with each other, leveraging a best of breed from each of the weapons and able to make decisions ... about which ship to go after, so they don't target the same ship four times with four weapons," Darrah said. "This is a breakthrough in my mind that we've got to get to."
Darrah said he also wants Navy autonomous systems to function in a role-based manner, and hand off, pick up and exchange tasks in a way that best serves the mission.