Feb 08 2022

Navy Seeks to Expand AI Capabilities

The service branch wants to make better use of artificial intelligence technologies via a new prototyping unit.

The Defense Department at large has been testing artificial intelligence tools to see how they can help war fighters in future battles, though the technology is far from precise.

The DOD just last week formally established its new Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office to serve as a hub to coordinate AI-related projects across the Pentagon.

The Navy is taking steps to expand its use of AI capabilities. Late last year, the service branch issued a “commercial solutions opening” document for its SCOUT Experimentation campaign, within the Office of Naval Research. SCOUT’s purpose, as Nextgov reports, is to “dissect operational problems and develop technologies that will both improve warfighters’ capabilities and expedite decision making.”

In addition to AI and automation technologies, SCOUT is looking into decision-making aids, sensor fusion capabilities and data processing on the edge, according to the CSO document. SCOUT is also exploring “machine learning algorithms for target recognition, natural language processing, pattern-of-life recognition, long-range sensors,” persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other capabilities. 

SCOUT “is problem-driven with warfighter partnership and teamwork to explore, discover, learn and deliver faster decision points,” Daniel Cabel, ONR’s SCOUT lead, tells Nextgov.

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Navy to Launch AI Prototyping Exercises

Starting this summer, SCOUT campaigns will have two experimentation tracks, according to Nextgov, with one focused on using new technologies for enterprise problems and the other consisting of technology sprints between Navy officials and participating companies to enable faster decision-making.

According to the CSO, SCOUT efforts are being done in coordination with U.S. Southern Command and the Joint Interagency Task Force South. Specifically, companies selected by the Navy to participate are being called upon to help enhance detection and monitoring capabilities, with a focus on tactics and technologies.

Over the summer, the Navy will use the sprints to “foment learning and innovation to rapidly develop technologies and techniques to improve warfighting capability and assist in quicker leadership decision making.” Depending upon how the sprints go, some technologies may be used in follow-up SCOUT events or exercises with the fleet.

“SCOUT will provide government and industry/academia participants a collaborative, low-risk environment to demonstrate technologies at the unique laboratories and ranges available across the Naval Research and Development Establishment, while practicing operators and planners simultaneously explore advanced tactics and assess the operational relevance of emerging technologies,” the document states.

The next phase after the sprints could involve 10 to 12 months of prototyping and experimentation projects that “progress through more complex scenarios and environments,” and certain “highly valued and mature technologies” might be fielded to operational units under certain contract terms.

“SCOUT is a critical component in what the department of the Navy is doing overall in terms of its Unmanned Campaign,” Jason Stack, ONR technical director, tells Nextgov.

RELATED: How can the armed forces use autonomous vehicles?

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