Autonomy refers to machines performing tasks that normally require human intelligence. In the context of the DoD warfighting mission, this can include tasks such as imagery analysis, operational planning, maneuvering vehicles, or fire control. The underlying technologies that enable these behaviors come from areas such as computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing.
Many envisioned autonomous systems follow the SENSE-THINK-ACT paradigm. The paradigm begins with SENSE, which involves the use of sensing systems to transduce physical phenomena into data. The THINK portion of the paradigm incorporates machine intelligence to perceive, orient, and decide based on an analysis of the data provided by the sensing system(s). Finally, the autonomous system ACTs which begins the continuous loop of the SENSE-THINK-ACT paradigm. This type of closed, continuous loop can provide unique solutions for a number of warfighting scenarios.