FEATURED STORY OF THE WEEK
Emerging Applications for AI in Aerospace and Defense
Thanks to years of artificial intelligence (AI) development for commercial applications, AI is aiding government aerospace and defense (A&D) organizations—and the private companies that support them—in exciting new capacities. In the next several years, AI will impact military intelligence, logistics, and personnel; AI will enhance space exploration, flight navigation, and passenger airlines as well.
Although defense applications for AI remain nascent today, the AI and robotics in aerospace and defense market “is anticipated to register CAGR of over 20%” from 2018 – 2026, according to a recent study by Mordor Intelligence. The military segments is expected to register the highest growth rate during 2020 – 2025 as well.
In this article, we explore some these emerging applications for AI in these sectors. We discuss these applications within three distinct paradigms, namely:
⦁ Mobile Autonomy
⦁ Logistics, Operations, and Command
⦁ Direct Support for Warfighters and Personnel
Understanding Digital Transformation in A&D
Digital transformation in aerospace and defense has been underway for decades. In an industry where country’s budgets for technology can reach billions or trillions of dollars, AI is the logical next step in that process. “Artificial intelligence has become one of the key themes in the aerospace, defense and security sector of late, with companies hiring for increasingly more roles, making more deals, registering more patents, and mentioning it more often in company filings,” Naval Technology reports.
The potential applications for AI are countless, strategically ambitious, and promising. There are recognizable applications already popular within commercial industries—automating mundane tasks and aligning business intelligence with strategic planning, for example. But unique applications abound as well. In aerospace, “The use of robots in space exploration, integration of AI in aircraft cockpits… biometric-based passenger check-in, and other technological developments in airports are some of the factors propelling the growth of the market,” Mordor Intelligence describes.
In defense fields, applications are exciting but also controversial as they expand within the public’s imagination. “In the next 10 years, unmanned platforms will be capable of both autonomous situational awareness and decision making,” CIO Review predicts. Nonetheless, these ambitious opportunities can bode well for defense organizations in the free world whose primary objectives focus not on wars, but threat detection, deterrence, and both economic and political stability worldwide.
3 Ways AI is Transforming A&D Today
Indeed, news articles about autonomous “killer robots” abound. But some of the most exciting applications of AI are more similar to their commercial counterparts, where physical autonomy is only a small part of the overall AI landscape. Here we investigate the three areas where military and aerospace organizations will further apply AI in the coming ten years and beyond.
1. Mobile Autonomy
On December 15, 2020, the United States Air Force (USAF) achieved the first autonomous military flight: artificial intelligence “helped co-pilot a U-2 ‘Dragon Lady’ spy plane,” CNN reported. Indeed, autonomous vehicles, robots, and weapon systems are some of the most publicized and ambitious AI applications in these field to date. AI-driven support units, drones that detect or swarm enemies, and unmanned traditional aircraft are just a few of the technologies that have become serious projects and have played upon our collective imaginations.
But mor often these very real capabilities are less about combat and more about reconnaissance, aid, and support. “Unmanned autonomous vehicles can save the lives of soldiers normally exposed to enemy fire, and also reduce vehicles’ operational costs,” Mordor Intelligence reports. “Both in terms of production costs and exploitation costs, an unmanned AI-powered vehicle is far cheaper to operate than its manned equivalent.”
As in commercial industries, the most robust and promising AI applications function in support capacities to human being in both deployed scenarios and within strategic command. They often support non-autonomous technologies piloted by humans as well. This applies to physical mobility in the robotic capacities described above—but also, AI computing systems that support strategic functions.
2. Logistics, Operations, and Command
The Common Operational Picture and Commandant Control (COPC2) system is an exciting new digital tool in the U.S. military’s toolbelt. The system uses AI to identify and provide more in-depth intelligence about threats and activities of threatening entities. By nature, AI can provide strategic recommendations based on that intelligence as well.
There are other exciting applications in logistics, operations, and command within A&D. Image recognition, analytics tools, speech recognition and translation, and geo-location tools are all on the table. And as described previously, AI can drive cost-cutting in the production and dispatching of military and aerospace equipment and personnel as well.
3. Direct Support for Warfighters and Personnel
Despite the focus on autonomous military hardware, none of these tools can compare to the intelligence and physical prowess of a trained warfighter, pilot, or other human team member. As CIO Review describes, “Military operations are soldier-centric and the goal of autonomous systems is not to replace the soldier, but to give [soldiers] another tool in [their] arsenal that improves [their] survivability and mission effectiveness.”
Augmented reality, personal navigation and notification systems, and systems for physical aid either worn or deployed alongside individual human participants are some of the most exciting ways AI are adopted or explored today. These technologies will do more the protect soldiers, civilians, pilots, and personnel in combat and flight scenarios, where quick and accurate decision making can save lives.
What’s the Next Step for AI in Aerospace and Defense?
Commercial development of AI has broadly focused on improving the lives of individuals and the strategic goals of organizations. That approach remains consistent with applications in aerospace and defense. As some of the world’s largest countries begin investing in next-generation A&D technologies themselves, the applications for AI in combat, flight, and space travel will only grow in their sophistication and adoption.
But we shouldn’t overlook how AI fits within the broader A&D technology ecosystem. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CSR) in 2020, technologies like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum technology are all part of an exciting mix of technology that will reach maturity in the coming years. Organizations supporting the development of these technologies and organizations that will adopt them need infrastructures that provide them with state-of-the-art computing capabilities they require.
Partner with Uvation for Your Technology Goals
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