Army working on autonomous threat recognition project

By Jaspreet Gill / April 1, 2020 at 2:31 PM

The Army's Artificial Intelligence Task Force is working on a new threat recognition project that involves an AI-enabled system of air and ground vehicles.

Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, director of the AI Task Force, told Inside Defense in an interview last week he is looking at several different ways autonomous systems can work in a battlefield environment to collect data on potential threats and locate adversaries through the "Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors" project.

"The key research problem that we're looking at is how to get those autonomous systems to work to create a [common] operating picture," Easley said.

One of the goals with the ATR project is to conduct aerial reconnaissance missions with both unmanned ground and air vehicles to reduce the load on soldiers.

"Right now, we typically send soldiers either via helicopter or ground vehicle," he said. "We want to be able to do that with a system of unmanned vehicles. We'll send out ground vehicles and air vehicles to maneuver through [different] areas [and] build up an operating picture."

He said the task force is currently conducting an activity with its commercial truck fleet where "instead of having one truck driver in every vehicle, you have one truck driver in every third or fourth" vehicle.

The task force in January completed a data collection event at Ft. Hunter Liggett, CA, with Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center and is working with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University on the ATR project.

Easley said the service was going to conduct an initial "network pieces" check for the project this month, but it has been moved to June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service still plans to conduct an initial demonstration in September, but the systems won't actually be able to work at scale for a "number of years," according to Easley.

"There's a big difference between getting this to work through ground vehicles and [unmanned aerieal vehicles] and [scaling it up] to work for every squad or every platoon in a division having these systems," he said. "How they share information on a much bigger level are harder problems, and we know those are going to take longer to solve."