Hundreds of delegates attended the show conference's plenary session yesterday morning to listen to a wide range of experts from the military, Congress, advocators, international agencies and even the Discovery Channel.

While the themes covered by the speakers were varied, a hot topic was the challenge of getting unmanned systems from the demonstration phase to the field.

"It's always better to under-promise than over-deliver," said Vice Adm Bernard McCollough. He focused on methods for keeping unmanned vehicles cost effective, through measures such as open architecture.

Air Force Maj Gen Blair Hansen told of a recent inspirational trip to the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center's Smithsonian Air and Space museum and compared UAVs to those aircraft in terms of philosophy.

"It's not a love affair with a platform that just happens to be unmanned," he said. "It's the capability it presents that is very compelling."

Fort Hood's Lt Gen Rick Lynch closed the session by discussing a Gold Star ceremony his Fort Hood post is having this weekend.

"I contend that if we had done our job better in fielding unmanned ground vehicles, they wouldn't have died," he said.

Source: Flight Daily News