Magazine article National Defense

Artificial Intelligence Could Help Neutralize Enemy Bombs

Magazine article National Defense

Artificial Intelligence Could Help Neutralize Enemy Bombs

Article excerpt

As improvised explosive devices proliferate and evolve, the U.S. military's explosive ordnance disposal community hopes to leverage artificial intelligence to defeat threats and protect technicians.

The use of IEDs by militant groups is growing more sophisticated and widespread. The Pentagon's Joint ImprovisedThreat Defeat Organization must therefore acquire better technologies that can sense, detect and neutralize enemy bombs, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, director of JIDO.

"Future initiatives and solutions must take advantage of new and predictive algorithms strengthened through deep machine learning, artificial intelligence, the integration of neural networks, autonomous systems, and manned and unmanned teaming," he said during his keynote address at the Global Explosive Ordnance Disposal Symposium and Exhibition in North Bethesda, Maryland, which was hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association and the EOD Warrior Foundation.

Shields' vision meshes well with the Pentagon's so-called third offset strategy, which aims to use artificial intelligence - among others technologies - in innovative ways to help the U.S. military maintain its warfighting edge.

"This is really about bringing some of the principles and concepts behind the ... third offset to the EOD community through robotic systems," Rich Thissell, a contractor science and engineering expert for JIDO, said during a presentation at the symposium.

For example, the technology could play a major role in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Shields said.

The EOD community hopes to use algorithms and computer vision to enable machines to perform tasks like object recognition and classification.

Unmanned aerial systems or ground robots equipped with the technology could potentially identify aluminum powder, passive infrared sensors and other bomb-related components as the vehicles maneuver through hazardous areas, he said.

"Imagine a scenario where we're able to take [an autonomous] platform, send it into a building . looking for that house-borne IED or booby-trapped" items without having to put troops in harm's way, he said.

The Islamic State terrorist group has placed a variety of traps in homes and buildings in urban areas like Mosul, Iraq. They include trip wires, passive infrared sensors and pressure plates, officials noted.

One way to potentially deal with that threat would be to deploy a small aerial drone or ground robot inside a building and have it map and image the contents. The technology for mapping a single level has already been demonstrated, said JIDO scientist George Pappas. Swarm technology could someday be used to map multiple levels of a building or even an entire city block while searching for IEDs, officials said.

Having autonomous platforms that can go into a hazardous environment, recognize threats and report back "will give you pretty good situational awareness," Jon Young, J-8 requirements division chief at JIDO, said during a speech at the symposium.

The services are brainstorming operating concepts.

Col. David Schmitt, EOD branch chief, Army G-38, said: "One of the things we're looking at is . are there ways of leveraging other technologies such as autonomy in order to help the operator get the robot or whatever the remote platform is down on target and get a picture of the device?

"And then are there ways to leverage either artificial intelligence or other . advanced computing-type options in order to analyze the data that comes out of that?" he asked during a panel discussion.

The goal is to reduce EOD technicians' time on target, he said.

Capt. Scott Kraft, commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head technology division in Maryland, said artificial intelligence and big data analytics could potentially help technicians more quickly recognize exactly what type of bomb they are dealing with and choose the best option for neutralizing it. …

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