The FY2019 budget for the Department of Defense (DoD) allotted an estimated $9.6 billion for unmanned systems and associated technologies – a 28% increase from FY2018, representing approximately 1.4% of the total DoD budget. As automation and AI continue to disrupt commercial markets, the security and defense industry is also experiencing tremendous growth as evidenced by the mammoth investment being poured into unmanned technologies. What promises do AI and robotics-based solutions hold for the DoD? And what are the consequences of applying these technologies in the theater of combat?
While unmanned technologies aren’t foreign to the U.S. military, given their prominent applications in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, automation was not a key feature in the use of UGVs or UAVs. In an effort to optimize operational efficiency and mitigating risks to personnel, it should be no surprise that the DoD is positioning AI and Robotics to impact every area of military operations, which is to say – sea, land, air, space, and the ever-evolving cyber domain.
Through the Fire and Flames
While the technologies may be cutting edge and new, the problems they solve certainly are not. The military’s interest in unmanned systems initially began with the desire to address the “dull, dirty, and dangerous.” It is unclear, however, if SAFFiR is what they had in mind. Designed to navigate fire-related emergencies aboard ships, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot is a humanoid-type robot that tackles the “dangerous” on levels that humans simply can’t operate. Setting itself apart from more commonly used robots in combat scenarios, SAFFiR is not a wheeled robot. With enhanced precision, range of motion, and sight (SAFFiR can see through heavy smoke), the Navy is just one more entity recognizing the benefits that robotics offer the security and defense industry.
Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
Even in the 1960s, when the Apollo Guidance Computers that NASA used for its lunar missions were roughly the size of a car, and couldn’t power a level of Angry Birds, they could still out-perform humans in rapid calculations. Modern-day computers are leaps and bounds from the early days of space exploration.
Today’s computing capabilities bring a host of improvements in the use of robotics from the edge computing that enables the application of AI/ML algorithms to cloud-based deep learning systems for complex environmental inference. Tomahawk’s KxM is an example of an edge processing mission computer that enables the deployment of machine learning capabilities on deployed robotic systems in the field. The computing capabilities in end-user devices also opens up improvements in the use of robotics. One example is the ability to model and simulate operational environments so that operators can mission plan and train to a certain set of tasks.
While computing and robotic capabilities are improving quickly, Kinesis enables operators to leverage autonomy when appropriate and then directly control robotic systems via teleoperation when required. To learn more about robotic-based solutions in security and defense, visit tomahawkrobotics.com.