Military AI Innovation, SOSA Hot Topics at Embedded Tech Trends

Military Embedded Systems

Published in Military Embedded Systems
Written by John McHale

The COTS Confidential Roundtable gathers experts from the defense electronics industry – from major prime contractors to defense component suppliers. Each Roundtable will explore topics important to the military embedded electronics market. This issue, we discuss how embedded computing suppliers are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for military applications, the impact of the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Consortium and other open architecture initiatives, and the outlook for the future of embedded technologies in the defense and aerospace markets with sponsors of the Embedded Tech Trends (ETT) conference, held during late January in Atlanta, Georgia.

This time, our panelists are Rodger Hosking, Vice President and Co-founder, Pentek; David Jedynak, Chief Technology Officer, Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions; John Bratton, Director of Product Marketing, Mercury Systems; and Doug Patterson, Vice President, Global Marketing, Aitech Systems.

MIL-EMBEDDED: Artificial intelligence, or AI, was the topic of many presentations at ETT this year. How is AI making an impact in military electronics? Which applications are benefitting from the technology now? Electronic warfare? Radar? Other?

HOSKING: Virtually all military electronics are benefiting from AI, and the technology is moving quickly. The first applications are “expert systems” that deliver relatively quick decisions and actions for a relatively narrow task. These include classification and identification of all objects in the operating theater of war, and even determining the most effective countermeasures or attack strategies. Another very important application is extracting critical intelligence from the glut of electromagnetic spectrum signals and internet traffic of all types, and then detecting patterns or relationships among those signals for further action. With continued expansion of deployed unmanned military vehicles, autonomous AI systems can help boost their survival rate and mission effectiveness. AI is not just developing smart engines, neural networks, or algorithms. It requires engineering of hundreds of specialized systems, each evolving over time to exploit a broader scope of sensor inputs, and more complex decision-making elements and principles to deliver increasingly accurate, targeted results.

JEDYNAK: Machine learning, deep learning, and AI are revolutionizing applications that help warfighters identify threats and objects from afar, detect unseen dangers, and locate and resolve equipment issues before failures occur. AI is key to the DoD’s Third Offset Strategy [which seeks to outmaneuver advantages made by top adversaries primarily through technology]. The specific examples almost don’t matter – we can take it as a given that it provides a significant leap forward. Think of the automobile versus horse and buggy: While so much remains extremely familiar, and on a spec sheet may not look all that different (i.e., four wheels, room for passengers, leather seats, room for luggage, luxury styling, etc.), the performance/capability difference is immense. In electronic warfare (EW), for example, AI enables machines to identify objects and take appropriate actions in a faster and more accurate way than humans can on their own. In signals intelligence (SIGINT) applications, machine learning and deep learning can be used to automate signal classification, which otherwise typically requires extensive expertise and is prone to human error.

Another key area where machine learning capabilities can be applied to increase the safety of warfighters and equipment is health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS). It enables computers to be trained to intelligently predict when equipment failures are most likely to occur and allows issues to be addressed before a mission is affected. For example, if a HUMS application detects that extra power is being applied to a wheel on a Humvee, it could mean the pressure in that tire has dropped and the tire could collapse. The same technology can also be used to inspect the physical integrity of air and ground vehicles before and after field operations. Ultimately, AI is enabling faster, more accurate identification of threats to today’s military platforms and helping deliver a competitive edge by accelerating and strengthening functions traditionally performed by humans.

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