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Navy looks to AI for smart battleships



First use of Startle technology to create situational awareness in evaluating threats

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has turned its attention to how artificial intelligence (AI) might help The Royal Navy.

The executive agency of the Ministry of Defence has harnessed a technology named Startle for using AI techniques to help warships better detect threats in operational contexts.

The effort is aimed at creating machine based “situational awareness” so as to continuously monitor and evaluate potential threats using a combination of AI techniques in a way its creators say “significantly augments human operator situational awareness in complex environments”.

In increasingly complex and dynamic mission environments, that enhanced capability could allow the command team to make better informed decisions faster, says its creator, a vendor named Roke Manor Research (Roke).

Open architecture

DSTL has just awarded the contract for a third phase of a £1 million investment in threat detection software designed to help the Royal Navy handle the growing complexity of threats. This means Roke can say it is the first supplier to integrate AI into the Open Architecture Combat System (OACS), a project to show the real world potential of advanced technology on a representative combat platform in a realistic environment.

Roke clams that if eventually integrated into a warship sensor suites, Startle would support the principal warfare officer by intelligently processing multiple sources of information, while cueing systems to assess and confirm potential threats.

“Traditional methods of processing data can be inefficient, so we looked at the human brain’s tried and tested means of detecting and assessing threats to help us design a better way to do it,” said Startle lead software architect Mike Hook.

In addition to maritime defence, says the vendor, Startle might also be adapted for autonomous vehicles, and health and usage monitoring applications.

Image: HMS Bulwark by Hmfcalum, CC BY-SA 3.0

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