Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Defence Applications

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become one of the major disruptors in technology today. It is seen as a key future differentiator in various industries including banking, automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, and most importantly defence and security. It has the ability to outperform humans in tasks such as image and object recognition, voice generation, speech recognition, and decision-making. There is no commonly agreed definition of AI, but as a general working definition it can be defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. AI has become a priority for many countries, with China committed to becoming the world’s premier innovation centre for AI by 2030.

Within the defence and security industry, AI can be advantageously used to improve a number of capabilities such as integrating it into Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s (UAVs) to perform missions independently with the UAV autonomously making decisions resulting in subsequent action in the field. Take this concept one step further and you have swarm intelligence. On 15 July 2018, Intel Corporation (USA) set a new world record in Folsom, California when it launched the largest swarm of drones in history - 2066 drones to celebrate Intel's 50th anniversary. The USA and China's rivalry in choreographed drone shows, are an exemplification of both countries interest in autonomous flight capabilities and intelligent drones with endless capabilities.

AI can also be used to improve a soldier’s mobility and strength with exoskeleton systems like Lockheed Martin’s ONYX, a powered exoskeleton with sensors to report speed, direction, and angle of movement to an on-board computer that instructs electro-mechanical actuators at the knees. The exoskeleton delivers the torque needed at that moment by the soldier to assist knee flexion and extension therefore reducing the energy required from the soldier to accomplish a task. ONYX is available in an advanced prototype configuration (TRL-6) for demonstration and testing. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, and Ruag are only a handful of companies developing systems with AI capabilities.

AI-enabled data analysis and information processing will assist intelligence analysts and commanders in the near future. In March 2018, The U.S’s  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)  held a proposers day for a new project - Collection and Monitoring via Planning for Active Situational Scenarios (COMPASS). The COMPASS programme would develop software that measures the enemy’s response to stimuli in order to determine the enemy’s intentions and subsequently inform commanders on how they should respond, with trade-offs for each course of action. COMPASS will utilize advanced artificial intelligence technologies, game theory, and modelling and estimation.

AI plays an important role not only in the field, but also in training. Through the use of simulations, soldiers can be trained in a realistic battle environment. Israeli defence company, Elbit Systems, is one of several companies that have developed such a training solution with its Live Combat Training System (LCTS), a fully integrated training system with laser components for infantry and armoured vehicles. The LCTS supports a wide range of simulated weapons such as personal weaponry, anti-tank missiles, mortars, artillery, and mines. AI is inclusive of so many different aspects in defence and security that it is on the verge of reshaping the entire defence industry as we know it.

Written by Elné Potgieter (Intern) 

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin