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Defend AI V-BAT Autonomy in Hostile Environments

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Defend AI V-BAT Autonomy in Hostile Environments

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Shield AI V-BAT Defend AI’s V-BAT Groups system permits autonomous operations underneath difficult circumstances

By DRONELIFE Options Editor Jim Magill

Because the U.S. Division of Protection searches for methods to make use of superior expertise to counter rising threats from worldwide adversaries, a California robotics and software program firm has launched a system that may enable warfighters to launch swarms of low-cost and simply replaceable drones to drastically increase a army unit’s surveillance capabilities throughout a broad expanse of territory.

Defend AI lately launched its V-BAT Groups system, which makes use of synthetic intelligence (AI) software program to manage a number of vertical takeoff and touchdown (VTOL) UAVs. These automobiles can function autonomously even in hostile environments, the place GPS and RF communication hyperlinks are denied. At about 9 ft lengthy, with a nine-foot wing span and a weight of 125 kilos, the V-BAT automobiles are compact sufficient to be carried behind a truck and might be launched from the deck of a ship at sea.

Coupled with Defend AI’s propriety AI-powered piloting software program, the V-BATs are designed “to function in these denied environments the place UAVs as we speak can not function,” Defend AI’s director of engineering Willy Logan, mentioned in an interview.

Shield AI V-BAT

230717-N-ED646-2230- ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 17, 2023) Artur Vacshenko, left, and Jamal Ramsey, civilian contractors for the Division of Protection, put together an unmanned aerial system for a take a look at launch aboard the amphibious dock touchdown ship USS Carter Corridor (LSD 50). The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps routinely take part in scheduled deployments to enhance mixed fight readiness, improve operational capability, and strengthen relationships amongst allies and companions all through the area. (U.S. Navy picture by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Moises Sandoval)

“The important thing factor for V-BAT is that it may possibly take off vertically, then it transitions to mounted flight, so it affords numerous functionality from logistics, by way of being small,” Logan mentioned. “Give it some thought by way of the Navy, which must cowl numerous space — within the Pacific for instance — with out runways.”

Defend AI hopes that the army will undertake its expertise as a part of the Pentagon’s Replicator initiative, which requires the deployment of hundreds of low-cost and easy-to-replace autonomous automobiles over the following two years, as a counter measure to technologically refined potential rivals akin to China.

The corporate, which unveiled its V-BAT Groups product earlier this yr, mentioned it is able to be deployed by U.S. army forces as early as 2024.

Shield AI V-BAT

230717-N-ED646-2263- ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 17, 2023) Jamal Ramsey, a civilian contractor for the Division of Protection, launches an unmanned aerial system for a take a look at flight aboard the amphibious dock touchdown ship USS Carter Corridor (LSD 50). The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps routinely take part in scheduled deployments to enhance mixed fight readiness, improve operational capability, and strengthen relationships amongst allies and companions all through the area. (U.S. Navy picture by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Moises Sandoval)

V-BAT automobiles are cell and might be damaged down and transported in molded plastic circumstances, manufactured by Pelican, that seal with an hermetic and watertight gasket. They are often re-assembled and made able to launch in a couple of half hour, Logan mentioned.

The automobile’s eight-bladed ducted fan permits it to take off vertically then swap to horizontal flight mode as soon as airborne.  It’s in a position to carry payloads of as much as 25 kilos and obtain flight instances of anyplace from eight to 10 hours relying on the automobile’s payload configuration and gasoline ranges.

Logan mentioned the V-BAT automobiles will probably be outfitted with wide-area EO/IR (Electro-Optical/Infra-Purple) cameras, plus an AIS [automatic identification system] and radar, giving them the aptitude to conduct long-range surveillance missions.

Defend AI’s Hivemind expertise permits for the coordinated autonomous operation of a swarm of as much as 4 drones. The corporate plans to double the software program’s teaming capability yearly for the following a number of years, controlling swarms of as much as eight drones in 2025, and 16 automobiles in 2026.

The Hivemind software program controls the flight of the swarm of drones, permitting it to function in tandem with out human intervention, even underneath circumstances when communication with a human pilot is denied, akin to when a hostile state actor disrupts the GPS and RF knowledge hyperlinks.

“You’ll be able to present a functionality to function when the GNSS (International Navigation Satellite tv for pc System) is contested or denied, like for instance what’s taking place in Ukraine now, the place the Russians have arrange traces of jammers,” Logan mentioned. “They’re jamming airplanes, so the airplanes aren’t in a position to navigate, they principally fall out of the sky.”

The V-BAT groups’ first mission will probably be to conduct maritime-based searches over large areas, such because the huge stretches of the jap Pacific, the place runways are few and much between. The preliminary batch of drones is not going to be armed, though the flexibility to arm the V-BAT exists and may be utilized in future deployments, Logan mentioned.

“I believe you’ll be able to arm something, so are we planning to deploy armed V-BATs? The reply isn’t any, however is it one thing that’s sooner or later? Throughout the trade, I believe the reply is sure,” he mentioned.

Presently, the U.S. and different nations engaged in a vigorous debate over how a lot management needs to be given drones and robots outfitted with AI software program that enables autonomous operations, particularly whether or not they need to be allowed to make focusing on selections in opposition to enemies, with out people within the loop.

“For my part, we’re a great distance from a UAS focusing on one thing with out a human,” Logan mentioned. “Normally, what’s extra doubtless is {that a} drone will go seek for targets; it’ll determine the targets, it’ll find the targets, after which it’ll ask a human if it ought to proceed to interact the goal.”

Defend AI was based as a protection and AI expertise startup by former-Navy Seal officer Brandon Tseng, his brother Ryan Tseng, and Andrew Reiter in San Diego, in 2015. Whereas preventing in Afghanistan, Brandon Tseng hit on the thought of forming an organization to develop a product that could possibly be used to enter and search buildings, with out exposing its human operators to pointless hazard.

To that finish, the corporate developed the Nova drone. In 2016, the U.S. Division of Protection issued the start-up firm its first contract, and deployed the Nova product for reconnaissance and fight help missions in the Center East theater of operations in 2018.

The corporate went on to develop Hivemind, an AI piloting software program that may function not solely V-BAT automobiles but additionally bigger unmanned plane. Defend AI has partnered with a number of producers, together with Kratos, to develop software program stacks for his or her plane.

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Jim Magill is a Houston-based author with virtually a quarter-century of expertise protecting technical and financial developments within the oil and fuel trade. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P International Platts, Jim started writing about rising applied sciences, akin to synthetic intelligence, robots and drones, and the methods during which they’re contributing to our society. Along with DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared within the Houston Chronicle, U.S. Information & World Report, and Unmanned Programs, a publication of the Affiliation for Unmanned Car Programs Worldwide.

 



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