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The combat capability of UAVs with the help of artificial intelligence will also continue to improve

Not long ago, the U.S. Air Force teamed up with the “Reaper” UAV manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Co., Ltd. to use the “Reaper” UAV to remotely demonstrate the Air Force Research Laboratory “Agile Vulture” system. The system adopts artificial intelligence technology, which can perform airborne high-performance embedded computing on remote UAVs, process and transmit data in real time, thereby enhancing the efficiency of UAV intelligence data acquisition.

What is a “Agile Vulture”

The application of artificial intelligence technology provides infinite possibilities for UAV performance improvement. In 2015, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory began to develop the “Agile Vulture” system, and this year began to carry out application experiments on UAVs. The “Reaper” UAV can perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and is extremely lethal. It is considered one of the most advanced UAVs, and the US Air Force plans to use it to carry the “Agile Vulture” system.

The “Agile Vulture” system is a high-performance embedded computing architecture developed by Syracuse Research in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to improve the big data analysis capabilities of UAV sensors. The system uses technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to process a large amount of data such as videos and images obtained by airborne sensors, find, identify and track targets, and achieve situational awareness and rapid identification of targets.

The “Agile Vulture” system can be installed into drone pods, and can also be used on sea-based, land-based platforms, and more. The Agile Vulture system on the Reaper drone consists of an external pod and an internal rack. The pod housing has been modified for thermal management of the electronics inside. Internal racks support the use of existing commercial equipment, allowing flexible technology upgrades. The chassis can provide 7.5 trillion floating-point calculations per second, ensuring the efficiency of sensor data processing.

What are the advantages

Data processing is efficient. At present, the onboard data storage of UAVs is strictly limited, and data processing needs to wait for the onboard data to be transmitted back to the base before proceeding. The “Agile Vulture” system preprocesses and analyzes a large amount of data collected at the sensor terminal, thereby improving data processing efficiency and enhancing situational awareness.

Target recognition is fast. In terms of target recognition, the “Agile Vulture” system can selectively process and analyze sensor data for specific targets and specific situations, and identify useful and sensitive data. UAVs no longer need to use all sensors to conduct large-scale surveys, but identify targets through sensors designed to detect anomalies, collect more data in a targeted manner, and notify intelligence analysts for further verification.

Reduced bandwidth requirements. Bandwidth throttling can result in slower data transfers, blocked communication links, and increased latency, which in turn creates an asymmetry in the amount of information between data collection and analysis. Once the data is processed on-board, the amount of information that needs to be transmitted to ground stations is greatly reduced, freeing up bandwidth and increasing transmission speeds, which in turn increases the speed and effectiveness of informing intelligence analysts of actionable information.

worthy of vigilance

At present, artificial intelligence technology has increasingly become the new focus of international strategic competition, and has become an important force to promote a new round of scientific and technological revolution and military reform, so that future operations will develop in the direction of intelligence. In order to adapt to this change, it is necessary to change thinking, develop technology, and enhance combat capabilities to meet the challenges brought by it.

The use of the “Agile Vulture” system for the “Reaper” drone is an important enabling technology. However, the use of the Agile Vulture system on the highly lethal Reaper drone, in autonomous mode without restrictions, would be disastrous. Current U.S. policy on autonomous weapons is to maintain an “appropriate level of human judgment” at all times, but LAWS may still be developed through incremental technological capabilities. Therefore, we must be vigilant about the increase in the degree of autonomy of such weapons of destruction.

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