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An illustration of Rolls-Royce’s vision for a land-based control center for the operation of autonomous drone cargo ships Image credit Rolls Royce

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has announced the first wave of £4 million funding

The funding aims to revolutionise the way warships make decisions and process thousands of strands of intelligence and data by using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

The aim is to start to de-risk and evaluate technologies and approaches that could enable alternative, revolutionary future fleet concepts that can maintain or enhance UK military advantage. This aim is based on a future vision where elements of automation, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are closely integrated and teamed with human decision makers. It is expected that this will ensure timely, more informed and trusted decision making and planning, within complex, cluttered, contested and congested operating and data environments (henceforth referred to as the future operating environment).

Nine projects will share an initial £1 million to develop technology and innovative solutions to overcome increasing ‘information overload’ faced by crews as part of DASA’s Intelligent Ship – The Next Generation competition. Proposers for funding who wished to meet these challenges had submitted their application by 23 July 2019. 

The astonishing pace at which global threats are evolving requires new approaches and fresh-thinking to the way we develop our ideas and technology. The funding will research pioneering projects into how A.I and automation can support our armed forces in their essential day-to-day work.

Defence Minister James Heappey

Intelligent Ship is focused on inventive approaches for Human-AI and AI-AI teaming for defence platforms – such as warships, aircraft, and land vehicles – in 2040 and beyond.

DASA, on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), is looking at how future defence platforms can be designed and optimised to exploit current and future advances in:

  • Automation
  • Autonomy
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial Intelligence

These key areas of research will look to address the complex and constantly evolving threats to national security.

This work will inform requirements then develop applications essential to the future force in an increasingly complex and A.I. driven environment. Although titled Intelligent Ship, a warship is just the prototype demonstrator for this competition – the project will inform development relevant to all defence equipment and military services.

Julia Tagg, technical lead from Dstl, said:

This DASA competition has the potential to lead the transformation of our defence platforms, leading to a sea change in the relationships between AI and human teams. This will ensure UK defence remains an effective, capable force for good in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

Crews are already facing information overload with thousands of sources of data, intelligence, and information. By harnessing automation, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence with the real-life skill and experience of our men and women, we can revolutionise the way future fleets are put together and operate to keep the UK safe.

Image shows AI Drone ships

The competition, currently backed by a total of £4 million over two phases, has the potential to transform the way the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force equipment platforms are designed, work together, operated and manned by the 2040s.

Innovations developed in phase 1 of the competition could later help determine the different platform types, size and role of future platforms as well potentially being adapted and integrated into the existing fleet.

DASA brings together the brightest minds in science, industry and academia to turbocharge innovations to keep the UK, as well as those who protect us, safe from emerging and evolving threats to our way of life. This project will ensure the Royal Navy and all our Armed Forces stays one step ahead of our adversaries.”

DASA Delivery Manager Adam Moore
Intelligent Ships Crown Copyright: Gray, angular mountains made of cartographic net

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