High-tech defense industries: Developing autonomous intelligent systems

João Reis, Yuval Cohen, Nuno Melão, Joana Costa, Diana Jorge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


After the Cold War, the defense industries found themselves at a crossroads. However, it seems that they are gaining new momentum, as new technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence are enabling the development of autonomous, highly innovative and disruptive intelligent systems. Despite this new impetus, there are still doubts about where to invest limited financial resources to boost high-tech defense industries. In order to shed some light on the topic, we decided to conduct a systematic literature review by using the PRISMA protocol and content analysis. The results indicate that autonomous intelligent systems are being developed by the defense industry and categorized into three different modes—fully autonomous operations, partially autonomous operations, and smart autonomous decision-making. In addition, it is also important to note that, at a strategic level of war, there is limited room for automation given the need for human intervention. However, at the tactical level of war, there is a high probability of growth in industrial defense, since, at this level, structured decisions and complex analytical-cognitive tasks are carried out. In the light of carrying out those decisions and tasks, robotics and artificial intelligence can make a contribution far superior to that of human beings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4920
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Defense industry
  • High technology
  • Intelligent systems
  • Level of war
  • Robotics


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