Inside Unmanned Systems

FEB-MAR 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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48   February/March 2018 unmanned systems inside So where do unmanned systems fit into this picture? A better question might be where do humans fit in. In a solar system where autono- mous technologies will continue to play a larger and larger role, and with artificial intelligence moving forward by leaps and bounds, will there be any role at all for humans in a 21st century moon-based facility? "Where did you go on your last holi- day?" Woerner asked us (speaking of tourism). "To Alsace? Why did you go there? Because you wanted to see it. But you could have downloaded all the pho- tos on the Internet. You did not have to go there but you did, because you wanted to have the experience. "And humans are humans and will remain humans, with personal expe- rience, so this is one aspect where I think you will never substitute people by robots for things like inspiration, experience and so on. You can replace them for making things, in a company, production of a car or whatever, you can use robots, but there will always be that thing that only humans can have—experience." "Therefore," Woerner said, "I'm not afraid of robots. I believe that whatever we do in the future we will do it together, robots and hu- mans, and if AI is developing further, which I hope it does, then it will help us to do the diff icult things, the boring things, and the challenge then becomes for humans to better themselves." Onward to Mars Whoever or whatever ends up populating the moon, with activities like drilling and mining on the slate, we know drones will not be far behind. But, Woerner said, the autonomous vehicles that will 'f ly' above the surface of the moon will look very little like our terrestrial drones. BRUSSELS VIEW by PETER GUTIERREZ "The first place we will see drones like the ones we have here on Earth, in my opinion, will be on Mars," he said, "because Mars, un- like the moon, has an atmosphere, so you can have a drone that really f lies like a plane or a zeppelin, you can have that on Mars. "And that would be very good for science, because right now on Mars we are putting a rover in one spot and that rover is able to do some kilometers close to that spot. Just imag- ine if you wanted to explore the Earth and you started with a rover at one point and let's say a perimeter of ten kilometers, you would know nothing about the Earth. So to have drones on Mars, which could do so much more than a rover, I think this is a very fascinating idea for the future." Today's earthly drones rely heavily, of course, on space-based GNSS, providing precise, real- time positioning. What will autonomous navi- gation look like on the moon or Mars? Will we one day see an LNSS or a MNSS? "We are discussing moon navigation and moon communication as well," Woerner said. "This will have to be a part of these scenarios. There are already some companies asking for a lunar navigation system and there are some ideas about how to do this, but it only makes sense if it can be developed in a speedy way. We will already have some actors f lying to the moon very soon under the umbrella of the Moon Village, and we'll have to see when and how navigation develops." So the moon will soon be open for naviga- tion, and for business, to be followed by Mars, and companies here on Earth with expertise in automation, robotics and autonomy could stand to win out as suppliers of key tools and technologies. Woerner said he is ready to take their calls. "I'm on the Internet, so drone manufacturers, or anyone else, can contact me directly," he said, "and if they have a nice pro- posal, we are ready to discuss it and to bring it to the ESA member states, who distribute the funds." "I BELIEVE THAT WHATEVER WE DO IN THE FUTURE WE WILL DO IT TOGETHER, ROBOTS AND HUMANS, AND IF AI IS DEVELOPING FURTHER, WHICH I HOPE IT DOES, THEN IT WILL HELP US TO DO THE DIFFICULT THINGS, THE BORING THINGS, AND THE CHALLENGE THEN BECOMES FOR HUMANS TO BETTER THEMSELVES." Jan Woerner ESA Director General

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