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Earl W. (Bill) Powers

United States of America

Dr. Earl W. (Bill) Powers

Future Forces Forum Multi-domain Advanced Robotic Systems (MARS) Conference 2018 Future Forces Exhibition 2018

Research Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO)


Robotic and Autonomous Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Human-Machine Teaming – Pros and Cons for Multi-Domain Operations


Robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) will play a central role in every future scenario across the range of military operations (ROMO). Human-machine teaming (HMT) – the interaction between humans and RAS to perform complex tasks – requires technological advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to realize its full potential. This requires the evaluation of the opportunities (pros) and threats (cons) of HMT in future multi-domain operations to ensure that RAS perform as designed and are employed ethically.


  • RAS AI computing will be exponentially faster and more capable
  • RAS and AI will evolve most rapidly in the commercial sector
  • RAS will be employed by commercial, civil, hybrid, and military actors in all operating environments
  • Policy decisions will influence the direction and employment of AI-enhanced RAS and HMT

 Research questions:

  • How will RAS with AI influence HMT for future military operations?
  • Are humans ready for RAS and HMT?
  • What level(s) of trust will be necessary for successful HMT?
  • What are the pros and cons of AI controlled RAS in military operations?

 Hypothesis: The development of artificial intelligence will enable autonomous action by robotic and autonomous systems and will make possible human-machine teaming that does not require continuous human input to accomplish complex tasks.

 Research methods: Mixed methods research, to include literature review, personal interaction, conference proceedings, and personal interviews.[1]

 Conclusions: Advances in RAS technology, AI, and HMT will continue to transform nearly every aspect of military operations. It is important that the military understand and institute the necessary shift to the increased use of RAS, ensure that we procure the best technology possible, and do not lag our adversaries.

[1] Mixed methods research is a research design with philosophical assumptions as well as quantitative and qualitative methods. Cresswell, John W., Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 4th Edition, Sage Publications, 2014.


Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Bill Powers is a Research Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies’ Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities supporting the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. He served 33 years as a Marine, both officer and enlisted, and retired as a Colonel. He has flown 14 different type/model/series aircraft, primarily A-4 Skyhawks and F/A-18 Hornets. He served combat tours in Viet Nam and Desert Storm and commanded a battalion acting), a squadron and a group. He has studied robotic and autonomous systems for more than 15 years and has been widely published and presented papers at numerous conferences and symposia both in the U.S. and internationally. Bill has a dual BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Central Florida; a Master of Science in Business Administration from Boston University, and a doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

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