Autonomous Vehicles & Drones - Emerging Uses
The United States government is currently considering a wide variety of applications for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Currently, different government departments, particularly the Department of Defense (DOD), is leveraging AI to address operational issues. The key emerging applications or use cases in AI for autonomous vehicles and drones specific to the US government include logistics and autonomous military vehicle and drone development.
AI Use in Military Logistics
- AI remains an important tool in the future of US military logistics. For example, the Air Force has begun to use AI technology to perform predictive maintenance in aircraft. Rather than wait for an aircraft to break before making repairs or adhering to the maintenance schedules, the department is implementing new AI-enabled strategies to tailor maintenance activities in accordance with the condition of individual aircraft.
- This AI-powered application is currently used by the Autonomic Logistics Information System of F-35, the world’s most lethal and connected fighter aircraft that gives navy pilots an advantage against any adversaries, enabling them to accomplish their war missions without fatalities. Through AI, the craft’s logistics system is able to sensor data in the onboard system and engine of the aircraft and feeds the data into an algorithm that determines the maintenance needs of the aircraft.
- Funded by the US DOD, F-35 aircraft are currently contracted to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, which is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Earlier this year, the company signed a $1.9 billion deal with the Pentagon to sustain and support the F-35 fleet through the year 2020.
- According to the Military and Aerospace Electronics, the AI-infused algorithms in F-35 is able to fuse sensor information as well as automate checklists and maintenance, which can influence pilot tactics to anticipate possible hazards.
- AI-powered F-35 is also expected to enable rapid access to information, high-volume procedural function, and easy organization of military data. Algorithms, for instance, can view, scan, and organize radar warnings, videos, and images, which provide data for human decision-makers.
- The National Interest also noted that F-35’s AI algorithms would enable radar, avionics, communications, and sensor technologies to better identify and attack targets during war. In the near future, F-35 pilots will be able to use AI to control a group of drones that are flying nearby the aircraft cockpit.
AI-Powered Autonomous Vehicles and Drones
- The US defense services are currently working towards incorporating AI into autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles, including ground vehicles, fighter aircraft, and naval drones. The application of AI in this field is similar to those for semiautonomous commercial vehicles used to recognize obstacles, plan navigation, communicate with drivers, and fuse sensor data.
- In early 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced its test completion of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Drone prototype, known as the ‘Sea Hunter.’ This is an autonomous, unmanned drone that is able to travel for longer periods and execute several military missions at a cheaper cost.
- Funded by the Office of Naval Research, the Sea Hunter is contracted under Leidos Defense Group, which is currently constructing the second Sea Hunter in Mississippi.
- A major achievement of the AI-powered navy drone is its recent ability to autonomously navigate through the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from San Diego, and back without any crew on board. Through AI, the navy ship is able to use sensor data from radar and cameras to assess any craft it encounters on the sea, and correctly choose the best maneuver.
- Today, the US Navy aims to use the autonomous vessel to address the twin threats of expanding Chinese and Russian navies. According to Fortune, Sea Hunter, which is not carrying any weapon, is expected to monitor the foreign fleets and offer secure communications relay for large warships.
- The Sea Hunter is expected to minimize the overall costs used to operate and manage sea vessels. Market Watch reported that it only costs $20,000 to operate, which is cheaper compared to the $700,000 cost of managing an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.