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Activity title

Fostering and Managing the STO Autonomy Portfolio

Activity Reference



Systems Concepts and Integration

Security Classification




Activity type


Start date


End date



artificial intelligence, Autonomy, unmanned systems


Autonomy was initiated as the STO’s first Thematic Area in 2016, and SCI worked across all CSO Panels, CMRE, and ACT to scope this area. The Specialist Meeting SCI-296 (Autonomy from a Systems Perspective) was held May 23-25, 2017 in Lillestrøm, NOR to begin this effort. SCI-296’s specific objectives were 1) to identify areas where NATO should increase S&T focus in and use of autonomy and autonomous systems, 2) to raise awareness of all of the ongoing & planned NATO activities in the area of autonomy, and 3) to make the connections between the appropriate personnel. This event produced a categorization of 17 Topic Areas by which the CSO now organizes, monitors, and manages autonomy (Objective #1). It also produced a substantial amount of new activities that were initiated with cross-panel membership. SCI-299 (Workshop to analyze SCI-296) was held Oct. 16-20, 2017 then performed an analysis on the effort to date and produced recommendations for the CSO concerning how to manage the thematic area. The STO’s scope in autonomy primarily intersects with technological concerns while ACT addresses aspects including ethics, policy, and legal. Both, STO and ACT should address issues, which concern operational impact potentially initiated by increased autonomy.


The objective of this ST is to aid the STB in the overall assessment, management, and shepherding of the autonomy Thematic Area. This includes either directly pursuing or developing processes to manage the pursuit of the following goals of the Thematic Areas: • Identify technical gaps, evaluate against existing S&T, assess if additional S&T focus or effort is needed • Ensure appropriate coordination and collaboration across all stakeholders • Understand, organize, and articulate the strategic intent, impact, and management approach It is noted that the first two goals are largely where the existing effort since 2017 has been focused whereas the third goal has received very little attention.


This ST covers all aspects of autonomy as was very broadly defined in SCI-296. This includes autonomy related to all physical domains (i.e., undersea, surface, ground, and air); autonomous platforms, systems, and sub-systems (both centralized and distributed); and the relevant aspects of cyber. It also includes both weaponized and non-weaponized applications as well as SAF that interoperate with humans directly in the loop, those with limited human involvement, and those with no human directly involved. Finally, the issue of trust in included whereby consideration is given to individual trust / user acceptance (i.e., will an operator use the autonomy or autonomous system?) as well as institutional trust (i.e., how will the autonomous capability be certified, procured, supported, etcetera…).

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