Archive for April 11, 2021

Robots, Droids & Drones: AI and Mostly Unmanned Helicopters.

DEFENSE.

A Wing Man, Not a Lead.

While the U.S. Navy is all for integrating Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, humans will always be the lead in the decision-making process, according to an admiral.

MQ-25A Stingray (Photo courtesy of Boeing)

Rear Admiral Paul Spedero Jr., the director of Fleet Integrated Readiness and Analysis at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, says “From a warfighting perspective, artificial intelligence subsets would be enablers or augments to the human in the loop.” Spedero said that has always been the Navy’s approach and he doesn’t see that changing, according to the Seapower magazine website.

“There are some things that can’t be replaced; the experience of a seasoned warfighter in the field being able to assess things that a machine — no matter how much we teach it — may never be able to pick up on,” he told an April 8 Navy League webinar sponsored by Deloitte. Having a human in the loop is a “necessity for war fighting will never go away,” he said, adding  “AI will be our wingmen. It will not be the lead in a fight.”

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Mix and Match.

The Navy is looking at both manned and unmanned aircraft to replace its aging rotary-wing (helicopter) fleet, another admiral says.

Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, who leads the chief of naval operation’s air warfare directorate, told a recent Navy League breakfast that the service’s Future Vertical Lift program will include a family of systems, an approach similar to the one it’s taking for the Next Generation Air Dominance program.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard)

“We are working on what we’re calling Future Vertical Lift maritime strike – which is a family of manned and unmanned systems which will be a key component of our distributed maritime operations,” he said, adding “We are early in the stages of doing our development for that,” the USNI News website reported.

Harris said the Navy has hosted sessions with industry to discuss Future Vertical Lift and the service plans to start an analysis of alternatives (AOA) this fall. The MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters – which the FVL program is meant to replace – will come to the end of their service lives during the later part of the 2020s, Harris said.

The Army, Navy and Marine Corps are all pursuing FVL, but Harris added the Navy’s requirements – that its platform must operate off of the cruisers and destroyers — restricts the weight and size of aircraft, USNI News noted.

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Unmanned Black Hawk.

Sikorsky has demonstrated optionally piloted flight technology on an S-70 Black Hawk, highlighting a future in which the service’s next-generation helicopters may fly autonomously in combat , according to the Military.com website.

S-70i Black Hawks (Courtesy Lockheed Martin)

A contender in the Army Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, Sikorsky demonstrated the supervised autonomy capabilities of the Black Hawk — which was equipped with the company’s Matrix autonomous flight software and hardware — under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, effort.

Sikorsky’s test pilot used a special control tablet to oversee the demo as the aircraft conducted an autonomous takeoff, avoided two simulated obstacles and landed by itself, according to a March 29 Sikorsky news release.

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., developed its Raider X prototype helicopter for the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA, effort, to replace the AH-64 Apache. And a team from Sikorsky-Boeing developed the Defiant X to compete in the service’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, or FLRAA, effort, which is designed to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk., Military.com noted.

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INDUSTRY.

 Anduril Industries, Venture-backed defense technology company, Anduril Industries, has acquired Georgia-based, air-launched effects company Area-I, according to Defense News and other news outlets.

“The acquisition expands Anduril’s portfolio of unmanned aerial systems, creates new opportunities for its software-defined capabilities such as mission autonomy and intelligent teaming and significantly accelerates the company’s strategic growth,” Anduril’s April 1 announcement said.

The company will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary under the Area-I brand, according to the Anduril statement.

California-based Anduril specializes in advancing technology like artificial intelligence, computer vision, sensor fusion, optics and automation to “radically transform U.S. defense capabilities and solve complex national security challenges,” according to the company.

April 11, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment


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