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19 Dec 19. AI & Robots Crush Foes In Army Wargame. A simulated infantry platoon, reinforced with drones and ground robots, repeatedly routed defending forces three times its size — without losing a single human soldier. Would this work in real life?
How big a difference does it make when you reinforce foot troops with drones and ground robots? You get about a 10–fold increase in combat power, according to a recent Army wargame.
“Their capabilities were awesome,” said Army Capt. Philip Belanger, a Ranger Regiment and Stryker Brigade veteran who commanded a robot-reinforced platoon in nearly a dozen computer-simulated battles at the Fort Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab. “We reduced the risk to US forces to zero, basically, and still were able to accomplish the mission.”
That mission: dislodge a defending company of infantry, about 120 soldiers, with a single platoon of just 40 attackers on foot. That’s a task that would normally be assigned to a battalion of over 600. In other words, instead of the minimum 3:1 superiority in numbers that military tradition requires for a successful attack, Belanger’s simulated force was outnumbered 1:3.
When they ran the scenario without futuristic technologies, using the infantry platoon as it exists today, “that did not go well for us,” Belanger said drily.
But that was just the warm-up, getting the captain and his four human subordinates – three lieutenants and a staff sergeant, each commanding a simulated squad – familiar with the Army’s OneSAF software. That’s a complex physics-based model so fine-grained it can assess whether an individual (simulated) soldier is killed, wounded or unscathed in any given attack. OneSAF also strictly limits the amount of information each human player gets. They only know what their simulated soldiers on the battlefield could, so it replicates the fog of war, if not the fear.
Then the wargame organizers added dozens of unmanned systems to the simulation. The immediate impact was on what Belanger and his team could see. Instead of being limited to the immediate field of view of their simulated soldiers, they could send the drones ahead to scout. Instead of being able to engage the enemy about 500 meters away (not quite a third of a mile) – or less in dense terrain like a jungle or a city – they could spot and attack them from 5,000 meters (more than three miles).
“It was awesome to be able to increase that zone of where we knew exactly what was going on, without being right on top of the enemy,” Belanger told me. “We were able to pretty much control the amount of area that probably a battalion-minus would have been able to control, with just one platoon.”
That doesn’t mean it was easy to adapt to the new tools. “The first time we used them was definitely a learning curve,” Belanger said. Drones can move much faster than ground robots, but they can’t carry as much firepower as a ground vehicle of similar size and cost. So, at first the fliers rushed ahead, found the enemy position, and then had to wait for the ground units to catch up. Meanwhile the opposing players, controlling the enemy force, noticed the drones and, although they weren’t able to shoot them down – something unlikely to be true with, say, the Russians – they could use the time to ready their defenses. Belanger’s manned-unmanned team still won, but not as decisively as they wanted to.
“Our UAS [Unmanned Aerial Systems] were able to identify exactly where enemy were, but we were unable to kill them without our ground vehicles,” he said. “You have to figure out how you’re going to mass combat power,” rather than attack piecemeal.
“As we did more and more iterations, we were able to build in more control measures and have more of … a human in the loop,” Belanger told me. “After about the second or third run with all the advanced systems,” he said, the human players were able to coordinate the air and ground robots in a single synchronized assault.
Coordinating these high-tech combined arms – aerial drones, unmanned ground vehicles, and human foot soldiers – was a lot more complex than leading an ordinary infantry platoon, Belanger said. While young troops who grew up on video know how to use computer control interfaces, they may not have the tactical experience required.
“Usually a platoon leader is a brand-new second or first lieutenant. Are they the right person for that job?” he asked. “[Should] a captain be leading a 40-person platoon” – as Belanger did in the wargame – “or is it a subject matter expert we don’t currently have in the Army?”
The technologies Capt. Belanger’s platoon used in the simulation don’t exist in real life – yet. But they are all feasible in the fairly near term, insisted Ted Maciuba, a retired Army officer who’s now deputy director of robotic requirements at Fort Benning’s Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate.
“These are things that industry and the Army labs said they could do,” Maciuba told me.
In August, working with a Pentagon-sponsored coalition of companies and academic researchers called the National Advanced Mobility Consortium, the Fort Benning Maneuver Center sent out an official request for concepts and held an online “virtual industry day” to brief interested parties. Participants swiftly provided more than 50 white-paper proposals, which Benning then circulated across the Army, the other services, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for feedback. The best ideas were modeled in the OneSAF simulation and used in the wargame with Capt. Belanger and his team in September.
What’s next? The Army wants to build actual prototypes of select technologies for a series of real-world field tests and experiments in 2020. A formal Request For Proposals – informed by the white papers and the wargame – will come out shortly, he said, with proposals to be submitted in January. Working with Georgia Tech Research Institute, the Army will try out the individual prototypes, then integrate them together into a series of increasingly complex experiments, culminating in a full “system of systems” field exercise this coming September.
So does industry need to deliver to make the robot-reinforced platoon work in real life?
Increasing the range of the platoon’s technologies 10-fold – from 500 meters to 5,000 – increases the area it has to control exponentially, from less than a square kilometer to more than 75 (about 30 square miles). “The key technology was a platoon artificial intelligence cloud,” Maciuba said, “the architecture that allowed our soldiers to be able to control robotic systems that were extending their reach within that battlespace.”
Each individual drone and ground robot needs its own narrow AI to navigate over terrain, analyze data from its sensors, and communicate with the rest of the force. But the most important AI is an overarching artificial intelligence to coordinate the whole platoon – an AI that doesn’t reside in any one physical location, but exists in a wireless cloud.
Instead of a single, central supercomputer that could be blown up, hacked, or have its communications jammed, the coordinating intelligence is distributed across multiple mini-servers carried by robotic vehicles and, potentially, individual soldiers. If one server is destroyed or loses communications, there are still others on the platoon network.
Of course, that requires the network to, well, work. If your cellphone has ever dropped a call, you know that’s not guaranteed. And battlefield networks have to overcome problems no commercial system faces, such as Russia’s extensive arsenal of electronic warfare systems to detect and jam transmissions. In 2017, the Army decided its tactical network was far too vulnerable to hacking and jamming, so it rebooted the entire modernization effort, and since then industry has been laboring mightily to build communications that can function even in the face of Russian or Chinese attack.
Maciuba is confident that American industry can deliver, he told me: “We actually have multiple [companies] that say they can build this architecture.”
One factor that makes this easier is the limited range involved. A five-kilometer radius from the platoon commander is a long way for traditional infantry operations, but it’s pretty short compared to many military communications systems. What’s more, with 40 soldiers and about as many unmanned systems spread throughout that area, weak signals can be relayed from radio to radio to radio, crossing long distances in several shorter hops.
Another crucial factor is limiting the bandwidth required. First-generation drones like Predator require human operators remote-controlling everything they do. (Basically, they still have a human crew, the crew’s just not inside the vehicle). That requires an uninterrupted full-motion video feed from the drone to the operators, so they can see what they’re doing, and an uninterrupted stream of moment-to-moment commands from the operators to the drone.
Modern drones, however, can fly themselves from point to point. The human just has to set the destination. Even ground robots, which have to deal with rocks, trees, mud, and more, are increasingly capable of detecting obstacles – which requires a lot of AI brainpower to interpret sensor data – and finding their way around them.
So the simulation assumed the robots could find their own way to an objective without a human remotely dictating every twist and turn along the way.
“We were not flying these things, we were not telling them how to drive,” Belanger said. “We were saying, ‘hey, this 100 by 500 meter area, I need you to go here,’ and they would figure out how to do it.”
“Soldiers are not controlling these systems,” Maciuba said. “They are commanding the AI cloud to control these systems.”
The Really Hard Part
Now, just getting places is not enough. Probably the most complex and critical task of the artificial intelligence – both the individual AI on each unmanned vehicle and the overarching AI in the platoon cloud – is to pull together sensor data, digest it, and condense all the millions of 1s and 0s into a single picture of the tactical situation that a human commander can understand.
“The thing that made this work was that platoon AI cloud that gave you the situational awareness of what was going on with that huge area,” Maciuba said.
That level of artificial intelligence doesn’t exist – at least not yet. To simulate its effects, the Fort Benning wargame relied heavily on human beings, a neutral “white cell” that took the sensor data, interpreted it, and summed it up in text messages to Belanger and his team. (In the tech world, this is what’s called a “mechanical Turk”: human labor pretending to be automation). Developing an AI that can synthesize data this way in the real world is a major effort across the armed services, part of the wider push for what’s called Joint All-Domain Command & Control.
The human-driven process used in the Fort Benning wargame was intended to help the Army think about how to use such an AI without waiting for someone to build first. “It’s a surrogate,” Maciuba told me. “It’s a model of the real world that has met all of the requirements to be accepted for analysis.”
The next step is building the real thing – and testing that it really works. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
20 Dec 19. Exposed Data Shows Where Police Departments Fly Their Drones. Dronesense, a company that sells a platform to government, law enforcement, and private clients for flying drones, exposed a database of customer data, in some cases showing exactly where users programmed their drones to fly.
The exposure not only presented a significant potential risk for the integrity of law enforcement investigations, but also gives new insight into how many police departments, safety services, and businesses are using drones across the United States.
Motherboard obtained some of this data and was able to plot drone flights from a police department onto maps. One showed a drone meticulously scoping out an apartment complex and its car park near Atlanta, Georgia. Another nearby flight marked as “disaster assessment” shows a drone flying over a playground. A third named “Mapping Mission” has nearly two dozen so-called “capture points,” likely referring to spots for the drone to photograph, spread across a residential Washington D.C. neighborhood.
“If Dronesense was breached, then it’s just another example of law enforcement putting too much faith in new surveillance technologies without fully accounting for the risks,” Dave Maass, senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in an email. “In addition to potential harms to privacy, insufficient security of law enforcement systems can also undermine the integrity of criminal investigations and even the justice process.”
The database is separated by different organizations, such as the Atlanta Police Department, Boise Fire Department, City of Coral Springs, Nassau County Police Department, and even U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The list included over 200 different entries, although some of those appear to be test or administration accounts. No drone camera footage was included, but as well as the flight path data, the data also contained what brand of drone each customer was using for the flight, the pilot’s name, email address, and other technical information about the drone.
Dronesense’s platform has several components: “Airbase” for storing data, “Pilot” for controlling a drone via an app, and “OpsCenter” to provide visibility into what multiple drones are doing and seeing at once. Cities have used Dronesense’s platform for monitoring large events like the Indy 500 race and NFL games.
Log flights automatically and view detailed playback,” the Airbase description reads on Dronesense’s website.
Those flight logs are some of the data obtained by Motherboard. As well as the flight marked as “disaster assessment,” others are named “Mapping bug test” and “demo 1,” suggesting some relate to demos or troubleshooting. In a statement, Dronesense said the data was exposed for just over a month.
Carlos Campos, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department, wrote in an email,
“The Atlanta Police Department began using a drone this year to assist us in a number of ways—primarily with providing us a convenient vantage point from which to manage large-scale events such as major sporting events and parades. We contacted DroneSense after your inquiry; the company acknowledged the data exposure and assured us it has taken measures to correct the flaw. We have no reason to believe any law enforcement-sensitive data was compromised as a result of the exposure. Still, the Department values the importance of data security and are discussing the issue further with DroneSense.”
Law enforcement and public and private search and rescue organizations have been using drones in the U.S. for several years. Drones have been used to arrest and surveil people and have also been used to locate missing persons and to assist in rescue operations during natural disasters.
Noam Rotem, an independent security researcher, discovered the exposed Dronesense data and flagged the issue to both Dronesense and Motherboard. Rotem explained that along with a friend he is scanning the web for leaky databases and came across the Dronesense data.
“Surveillance vendors often provide sales pitches that emphasize everything that can go right when a technology is deployed, but rarely do they address what might happen when the technology fails. This latest incident indicates that law enforcement should exercise more skepticism when acquiring new surveillance systems,” Maass added.
When asked a series of questions, Dronesense provided Motherboard with the statement it is sending to its own customers.
“On December 3rd, DroneSense was notified by a security researcher of a potential vulnerability regarding a database located in our cloud-based infrastructure,” the statement reads. “Within minutes of this notification, DroneSense identified and corrected a security flaw which had exposed a list of organization names within the DroneSense platform and, for a limited number of organizations, account data. At no time were live video streams or customer uploaded images, videos, documents, or media of any kind exposed by this flaw.” (Source: UAS VISION/Motherboard)
10 Dec 19. Interview, Gary Aitkenhead, Chief Executive Officer, Dstl.
‘We should be looking to increase the “tech IQ” of senior leaders’
Gary Aitkenhead was recruited as CEO for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) two years ago. His background in the private sector in technology industries, latterly at Motorola, gave him the right mix of skills and experience to lead the laboratory at a time of rapid
technological change. He sees his role as giving Dstl a sharper focus, ensuring that investment and effort is directed at deriving military advantage and confirming that senior leaders in the Ministry
of Defence (MoD) understand how technology can help them. He wants to build technology “into the psyche at the top level” of the ministry.
“In a world where technology is a bigger factor, we should be looking to increase the
‘tech IQ’ of senior leaders,” he told Jane’s. Aitkenhead’s background makes him a strong advocate for greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills. “If we want to provide security and prosperity, it’s fundamental: a precursor to prosperity,” he said, adding that he believes that this message is gaining traction within the MoD and with senior service leaders. Funding remains a challenge, however. While the MoD is re-capitalising its platforms, there needs to be a realisation of how technology can deliver real military advantage. Aitkenhead pointed to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter as an example. “Key technology [for this programme] was invented in Dstl. This work now directly supports 25,000 jobs in the supply chain,” he said, adding that this will be used in every F-35, not just UK aircraft, and can be traced back to work done by the laboratory 15–20 years ago. Aitkenhead characterised the ‘tech IQ’ in the MoD as “variable”, with some services being better than others and service chiefs as well as senior MoD leaders often needing reminders of the advantage that investment in science and technology can bring. However, he observed, “Fundamentally everybody gets the idea that science and technology provides a military advantage.”
Aitkenhead described Dstl’s role as a combination of research, requirements, consulting, and operational support. This includes evaluating new equipment to ensure that it does what it is meant to do. Operational support involves a ‘reach back’ capability, where deployed forces can call upon Dstl’s expertise where needed. Some Dstl personnel have even been forward deployed.
To do all this Dstl has an annual budget of about GBP700m (USD921m) and a staff of 4,000. Ninety percent of its work undertaken is for the MoD, with the rest spread across government – principally the Home Office, given that there is an increasing crossover between the military sphere and counter-terrorism. “Things that were previously seen in terms of military conflict – and usually as far away – are now homeland security issues,” said Aitkenhead. Terrorists now have access to materials and technology previously available only to military forces.
In the defence arena, the pace of change in technology means that, where once the military led advanced research and development, commercially available IT can now be adapted to achieve military effect at low cost. However, this applies not only to the UK and its allies, but also to adversaries. Looking ahead, Aitkenhead noted that the world “will be a very different place”. “There will be significant developments in space, cyber technology, artificial intelligence [AI], as well as autonomous vehicles. This capability will be deployed by us or our adversaries,” he noted, meaning that choices must be made about investment.
As an example, Aitkenhead cited the ‘early stages’ work Dstl is doing on quantum computing. Describing the potential effects of this, he said, “Take encryption: systems that are currently extremely secure could be broken into in seconds. We need to understand the implications for that.” He added that the UK must understand how this technology would function if it were deployed by an enemy and react appropriately to maintain its advantage.
In the area of ‘grey zone’ conflict, Dstl has “an active interest in technologies that allow influence in social media and in cyber technology”, he said. Aitkenhead also noted the risk of a state-sponsored cyber attack on critical national infrastructure. Preventing this will become an increasingly important area of endeavour.
To ensure that Dstl remains in touch with developments in science and technology, it currently outsources up to half of its income in subcontracts with industry, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and universities: a 9% increase over 2017–18.
SMEs received 26% of outsourced research.
“More good ideas are invented outside government, and we need to tap into the best ideas; I see this increasing,” Aitkenhead said.
“In a world where there is not enough money, we need to get the most out of our investment.” This involves looking at creative ways of partnering and, where necessary, de-classifying data and algorithms to enable work that can then be brought back into Dstl for further development in a secure environment.
Aitkenhead noted that the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is a separate organisation with separate funding, despite being based in Dstl. However, he noted, “Our research projects help fund DASA to set competitions.”
Dstl also works with the UK’s Five Eyes partners: a collaboration that Aitkenhead characterised as “extremely deep and long lasting, and fundamental to our work”. (Source: Jane’s/Nick Watts)
19 Dec 19. L&T Technology Services opens design centre in United States. This centre of excellence will specialise in development of high-performance engineering solutions for global aerospace and defense technology players, the pure-play engineering services company said in a statement. L&T Technology Services Limited (LTTS) announced on Thursday it has opened a design engineering centre in Rockford, Illinois (USA) to cater to the new age digital requirements of the aerospace and defence markets. This centre of excellence will specialise in development of high-performance engineering solutions for global aerospace and defense technology players, the pure-play engineering services company said in a statement.
“The facility will have a team of over 100 engineers with expertise in digital engineering, systems engineering and avionics design,” it said. The 130-seater facility is the sixth design centre of LTTS, a listed subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro Limited, in the United States.
The company’s offerings to the aerospace sector encompass a wide spectrum including aero engine, aero structure & systems, avionics, air traffic management and new-age disruptive digital transformation solutions which cater to all phases of the Aircraft Lifecycle- design, manufacturing and aftermarket services, it said.(Source: Google/https://www.financialexpress.com/)
18 Dec 19. Beyond Expectation: The Bell V-280 Valor Delivers Results. As the U.S. Army-led Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program wraps up, Bell’s revolutionary tiltrotor continues to turn heads with outstanding performance and shines a spotlight on the benefits of modernization.
After two-years of highly successful flight demonstrations the Bell V-280 Valor continues to showcase new capabilities to show how the aircraft meets the challenges of future fights. The aircraft has flown more than 150 hours through multi-sortie test days and numerous public demonstrations to deliver data and inform requirements for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program.
“The V-280 and flight test program teams’ performances have gone above and beyond expectation,” said Keith Flail, vice president of Advanced Vertical Lift Systems at Bell. “Our team of defense-aerospace technology and manufacturing experts demonstrated the ability to deliver a high-performance aircraft on schedule that will revolutionize U.S. military vertical lift capability. We are very proud of this track record and look forward to competing for the U.S. Army FLRAA program.”
In 2019 alone, Team Valor and the V-280 program team have delivered performance milestones beyond expectations. 2019 milestones include:
- Speed > 300 kts
- Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE) > 6,000 feet altitude at 95º F
- Low speed agility to meet the Army’s Level 1 Handling Qualities requirements
- Executed numerous, consecutive multi-sortie days of flight operations
- Test flights with Army pilots
Flight testing did not simply focus on demonstrating engineering maneuvers. The team understands the V-280 must be suitable for use in multi-domain operations as well. To that end, the V-280 has integrated the Lockheed Martin Pilotage Distributed Aperture System (PDAS) mission equipment package and has flown operationally focused tests showing fast rope deployment options. Looking forward, testing will include additional mission equipment package integration, sling load tests and a demonstration of autonomous flight.
Unprecedented flight performance is only part of the equation for FLRAA to be a successful program. Bell continues to analyze and test options to improve future fleet affordability and sustainment lifecycle cost. The team has undertaken initiatives to address cost-drivers inherent in operational aircraft by employing the latest digital technologies to optimize affordability throughout the fleet’s lifecycle.
In addition to performance achievements, the V-280 has also continued to be recognized for excellence from independent organizations. For example, the National Aeronautic Association nominated the V-280 for the prestigious Collier Trophy and Aviation Week has recognized the V-280 with a Laureate Award for the 2nd consecutive year.
These results continue to show national leaders that the JMR TD program has been a great example of government-industry partnership. The success of the JMR TD effort offers the Army an opportunity to leverage technologies proven over the past six years to inform a program of record and get new capabilities fielded in line with the Army’s modernization strategy. The V-280 demonstrates that close collaboration between government and industry can deliver transformational capabilities in a rapid and sustainable process.
“Bell is committed to our customers. Our talented employees are innovators who have reimagined how vertical lift can help modernize the Army with the V-280 Valor. We are proud of what the V-280 and Team Valor have achieved in 6 short years and look forward to building on our success to bring next generation capability to the warfighter in the coming years,” continued Flail.
As the competition for the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft moves forward, Bell and Team Valor continue to set the pace. (Source: ASD Network)
19 Dec 19. The US Army’s innovation lab is the key to solving tough problems. For the last two years, the Army has put full focus on reorganizing itself to modernize its systems and capabilities faster. Army Futures Command, which stood up in 2018, has taken the lead and even fashioned its own innovation arm to help seek, match and implement commercial solutions to warfighter problems. The Army Applications Laboratory aims to connect nontraditional commercial solvers – entrepreneurs, startups, university researchers — with the Army to close capability gaps and speed modernization.
Defense Systems chatted with Porter Orr, director of the capabilities accelerator team with Lab, to get a better understanding of what the Army’s version of the Pentagon’s innovative acquisition arm, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), has been doing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
DS: What have you been working on this last year and what’s on the horizon for the next six to 18 months in terms of the problems that you’re solving?
Orr: The first thing to understand from the Lab’s perspective is that really we’ve just stood up –we’re brand new, we’re less than a year old. A lot of what we’ve accomplished that we’re proud of is understanding exactly how we see the Lab moving forward. What’s our strategy, how are we going to bring value to the Army as well as value to the commercial sector potentially that we’re trying to partner with. So we’re pretty proud of building a culture and a cohesive team structure and the strategy moving forward to provide value to the modernization efforts that Army Futures Command and the Army are trying to go after.
More tactically speaking, we’ve funded multiple different small companies from across the country on either proof of concepts or different pilot type events, spread across technology areas based in artificial intelligence or data science as well as robotics. We have some that deal with autonomy.
Our most exciting thing that we’ve been setting up for the past six months, but we’re going to start hitting the full gas on in January 2020, is what we call our field artillery autonomous resupply cohort. That would be a three-month, hands-on experience where we bring in companies that have truly novel solutions and technology that can help us solve a very complex problem. The concept is that we help them understand what the Army is looking for, connect them with the actual end user, the soldier in the field, give them context of the problem. Then they can go and work out how they can potentially solve that problem with their commercial dual-use technology.
And then moving forward, some of the other projects that we’re looking at are, continuing clearly at the technology level, what is going to bring value to the Army to modernize and what commercial technology aligns to that. So again, looking at things like autonomy and robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, internet of things, a lot of augmented reality, virtual reality, potential solutions that just really span the gamut.
The technology is the technology. We’re looking at the technology that’s cross-cutting to help the Army out in multiple different efforts.
DS: What sort of problems are you looking to solve with AI and ML?
Orr: Those are incredibly broad cross-cutting technologies, right? I think what’s fundamentally important and what’s different about the Lab is that we’re not trying to just find great technology and find a use case for it. Our approach is actually the complete opposite of that.
For about 80% of the time, what we’re trying to do is find solutions to problems. Those problems come from the Army and the Army Futures Command. They are very crystal clear about what the priorities are, and we’re in direct alignment with that. Our small part to play is to understand what potential commercial technology can enable those modernization efforts to move faster and more capably and then potentially at a better value because they’ve already been developed. We can reduce costs in terms of research and development expense as well as potential ongoing sustainment expense.
Now 20% of the time, we are looking for disruptive technology. We know that obviously technology needs to incubate — and we may not always understand exactly what use case it might end up being used for — but we might have a vague, general understanding and think it’s potentially transformative. So we sponsor that work just to see if we can create a little bit more traction on how it could go after a specific use case that then could empower a modernization priority in the future.
DS: Do you have an example of that? The Army must have thousands upon thousands of problems that need solutions. How do you even go about narrowing that and then also seeing if you can get a use case?
Orr: That’s going to be a long answer. An example is this field artillery autonomous resupply cohort that we’re doing started months ago. We went to the long range precision fires cross-functional team and asked about their problems. And that was just a very candid, iterative conversation. Quite honestly, it took a little while to understand that they did have a fundamental problem about resupplying their future artillery piece. They wanted to be able to do that autonomously in order to save soldiers’ lives in battle.
Now, that use case, the problem sourcing came directly from the priority of the cross-functional team. We then looked at the use case and saw a lot of potential overlap in the commercial market. When you look at autonomy, supply chain and logistics, there’s a lot of commercial companies trying to solve this. Yes, the military use case is a little bit different — it’s an open ground, it’s a little bit more extreme — however, there are certain subsets of that solution that we might be able to solve with multiple different types of cross-cutting technology.
The next step was to try to get to these companies that have potential solutions to this problem and have them understand the problem and give them context about what the problem is, let them meet the soldier in person and then have them propose how their technology could solve this small subset of this challenge.
So we went on a five-city road show. We started in Austin, we went to New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh. We went out there and we talked to solvers directly; we proactively reached out to solvers that wouldn’t necessarily always think about working with the military. And again, to be clear, this technology could be autonomy. It could be robotics, it could be algorithms, it could be sensors, it can be a lot of different cross-cutting technologies. We did this five-city road show. We had three online webinars. We had a very proactive social media platform push to attract interest in what we’re trying to talk about, to get understanding about the problem. And then we opened up an application period. Our goal was to have 40 submittals across the United States. We actually had 88.
DS: How do you make sure that you’re not stepping on the toes of other Army components like the research and development, science and technology (S&T) side or even DIU? How do you operationally make sure that you aren’t working on the same problem as another part of the Army or DOD?
Orr: So baked into our ethos here at the lab is that we don’t build things in a bubble. We want to build great products for the Army, and we know that great products are built by a multitude of stakeholders that have invested interest up and down the chain of the Army. So whether you’re a scientist or engineer from our S&T labs, whether you’re a program manager, whether you’re a soldier in the field — if you have a particular interest in what we’re trying to build, we want you in that conversation at the beginning. We’re not really interested in building things in our own little bubble and then saying, “Hey, look at how cool this is.” If people aren’t invested in what we’re trying to do, we don’t want to do it because we’re limited in resources, and the resource that we’re primary constrained with is time. We have problems getting cool stuff into the hands of soldiers that’s applicable and useful. (Source: Defense Systems)
18 Dec 19. Crystal Group 2019 rugged industry impact: Secures more than 30 major contract awards. Exponentially expands footprint in defense, autonomous vehicle and energy sectors. Crystal Group, Inc. announced a record year for growth and market expansion, solidifying the company’s position as a leading designer and manufacturer of rugged computer hardware.
Leveraging fast, scalable, in-house production capability, Crystal Group helps military, commercial and industrial customers take advantage of innovative technologies while protecting critical IT systems against hazards of the deployed environment. In 2019, the company secured more than 30 major contract awards.
“Crystal Group has seen a growing need for IT hardware that can sustain and secure rapidly expanding compute capabilities,” said Scott Kongable, president of Crystal Group. “This year’s progress illustrates our ability to anticipate risks, solve complex challenges and deliver best-in-market rugged solutions. We enter 2020 with the confidence to continue a successful upward trajectory with our partners and customers.”
Crystal Group’s reliable solutions support more than 600 military missions around the globe. In 2019, the company vastly increased its position in the defense sector through new contracts with the Department of Defense and leading defense contractors. Cyber security, GPU packaging and intense thermal requirements continue to drive development of Crystal Group’s new solutions for military customers. With the expertise to deftly anticipate the myriad of factors that can impact technology, Crystal Group has been selected as a trusted partner to collaborate on vital systems, such as C4ISR, cyber-secure networking, electronic warfare, missile defense and unmanned vehicles for land, air and sea.
Mission-critical defense capabilities the company was selected to support in 2019 include:
- Modernizing optionally piloted aircraft to fully autonomous flights
- Integrating new artificial intelligence applications with existing systems
- Scanning vast swaths of terrain in a single sortie
- Accessing videos and imagery across multiple security levels
- Automating communications aboard submarines to reduce errors and personnel requirements
- Protecting aircraft from battlefield threats through advanced infrared countermeasures
- Developing broadcast capability for timely delivery of unclassified and classified data in theater
- Delivering a single, unambiguous view of the battlespace in near-real time
- Training military personnel to identify and counter enemy missile or artillery threats
- Providing a critical network link between aircraft, ships and ground assets
Commercial and industrial customers recognize and benefit from Crystal Group’s proven track record of meeting strict Department of Defense quality and security requirements, as well as the International Electrotechnical Commission and IEEE global standards.
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13 Dec 19. Artificial Intelligence to be Used for Charting, Intel Collection. Nautical, terrain and aeronautical charting is vital to the Defense Department mission. This job, along with collecting intelligence, falls to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Two senior DOD officials think that artificial intelligence will aid NGA’s mission.
Mark D. Andress, NGA’s chief information officer, and Nand Mulchandani, chief technology officer from DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, spoke yesterday at the AFCEA International NOVA-sponsored 18th Annual Air Force Information Technology Day in Washington.
The reason charts are so vital is that they enable safe and precise navigation, Andress said. They are also used for such things as enemy surveillance and targeting, as well as precision navigation and timing.
This effort involves a lot of data collection and analysis, which is processed and shared through the unclassified, secret or top secret networks, he said, noting that AI could assist them in this effort.
The AI piece would involve writing smart algorithms that could assist data analysts and leader decision making, Andress said.
He added that the value of AI is that it will give analysts more time to think critically and advise policymakers while AI processes lower-order analysis that humans now do.
There are several challenges to bringing AI into NGA, he observed.
One challenge is that networks handle a large volume of data that includes text, photos and livestream. The video streaming piece is especially challenging for AI because it’s so complex, he said.
Andress used the example of an airman using positioning, navigation and timing, flying over difficult terrain at great speed and targeting an enemy. “An algorithm used for AI decision making that is 74% efficient is not one that will be put into production to certify geolocation because that’s not good enough,” he said.
Another problem area is that NGA inherited a large network architecture from other agencies that merged into NGA. They include these Defense Mapping Agency organizations:
- DMA Hydrographic Center
- DMA Topographic Center
- DMA Hydrographic/Topographic Center
- DMA Aerospace Center
The networks of these organizations were created in the 1990s and are vertically designed, he said, meaning not easily interconnected. That would prove a challenge because AI would need to process information from all of these networks to be useful.
Next, all of these networks need to continuously run since DOD operates worldwide 24/7, he said. Pausing the network to test AI would be disruptive.
Therefore, Andress said AI prototype testing is done in pilots in isolated network environments.
However, the problem in doing the testing in isolation is the environments don’t represent the real world they’ll be used in, he said.
Nonetheless, the testing, in partnership with industry, has been useful in revealing holes and problems that might prevent AI scalability.
Lastly, the acceptance of AI will require a cultural shift in the agency. NGA personnel need to be able to trust the algorithms. He said pilots and experimentation will help them gain that trust and confidence.
To sum up, Andress said AI will eventually become a useful tool for NGA, but incorporating it will take time. He said the JAIC will play a central role in helping the agency getting there.
Mulchandani said the JAIC was set up last year to be DOD’s coordinating center to help scale AI.
Using AI for things like health records and personnel matters is a lot easier than writing algorithms for things that NGA does, he admitted, adding that eventually it will get done.
Mulchandani said last year, when he came to DOD from Silicon Valley, the biggest shock was having funding for work one day and then getting funding pulled the next due to continuing resolutions. He said legislators need to fix that so that AI projects that are vital to national security are not disrupted. (Source: US DoD)
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Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.