U.S. Naval forces are going all in on unmanned technologies. As evidence, look no further than two recent appointments: retired Marine Gen. Frank Kelley as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems and Rear Adm. Robert Girrier as Director of Unmanned Warfare Systems in the newly established N99 directorate, which will oversee development of the Navy’s unmanned air, surface and undersea vehicles.The term unmanned system or drone typically conjures images of flying robots, but Kelley is looking far beyond just the air domain. “We’re going to open up our eyes and think about new ways, new missions,” he said during a panel discussion at the annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition this week. Drones might allow Marines and sailors to “fight in areas where we may not have fought in the past. Underground, maybe on the surface, as part of the surface,” Kelley said, noting that swarming concepts involving thousands of devices could be included in these new mission sets. “The biggest thing that we like to emphasize is that unmanned systems are going to fundamentally change the way the Department of the Navy operates in the future.”
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