AI’s Crucial Role Onboard Tactical Drones for Improved ISR Capability

Mark Palmer, CTO of Sentient Vision Systems, makes the case for AI to bring real-time intelligence and operational decisions to military drone missions By Sarah Simpson / 30 Sep 2022
AI’s Crucial Role Onboard Drones for ISR Capability Improvement
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Mission success for operational drones will increasingly depend upon onboard AI (Artificial Intelligence) to deliver ISR/ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) solutions across a range of domains, including the increasingly complex land terrains and battlespace.

Lessons being learned in theater in Ukraine demonstrate the need for real-time intelligence – and that demands AI-enabled surveillance technologies including moving image capture to identify threats, and provide target location and coordinates. “An absence of AI-enabled technologies will effectively spell the difference between success and failure of the ISR mission. Military commanders ignore at their peril the deployment of data rich sensors that can deliver immediate intelligence,” is the stark warning from Mark Palmer, CTO of Melbourne-based global technology company Sentient Vision Systems, providing autonomous AI search and detection over land and sea.

Mark Palmer, CTO at Sentient Vision Systems
Mark Palmer, CTO at Sentient Vision Systems

Mark Palmer will deliver a presentation entitled ‘Benefits of AI Onboard UAS’s for ISR Capability Improvement’ at 1.30pm on October 5th, which is Day 2 of the AAUS (Australian Association of Uncrewed Systems) conference. The AAUS conference is running alongside LAND FORCES 2022 defence exhibition in Brisbane, Australia, 4th – 6th October, 2022.

In this presentation Palmer will discuss the benefits of having AI onboard to significantly increase the operational ISR capabilities of UAS platforms.

“With the reduction in size, weight and power of many ISR sensors, UAS’s platforms can capture far more data than can be transferred to the ground,” explains Palmer who leads the teams of engineers and scientists at Sentient Vision Systems, pioneers of ViDAR (Visual Detection and Ranging) the world’s first optical radar.

Palmer cites a growing awareness with force commanders stating the crucial role of sensors, including US Air Force Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich who is considering how to merge information from various airborne platforms to give troops a more complete understanding of what’s happening in the airspace around them.

Grynkewich explained in a recent State Department briefing: “We’re looking at the potential for enhanced use of drones — not the kind of drones that we’ve used in the past, but smaller, less expensive, that we can network in some way,” he said. “We’re looking at the unique placement of sensors that we can put up at high altitudes in order to build a broad situational awareness.”

The Sentient sensor portfolio includes ViDAR™ Land, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled next generation Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) system providing day (EO) and night (IR) persistent surveillance. It can autonomously detect, filter, classify and track thousands of objects and assists the operator to focus solely on the targets of interest. It can detect both vehicles and moving individuals within a wide area.

With over 3,500 systems deployed, Sentient’s solutions enhance the performance of EO/IR operations for many agencies and forces worldwide with applications including:

  • Search and Rescue operations at sea
  • Military intelligence and surveillance operations
  • Police detection and prevention of illegal activities including smuggling of contraband, narcotics interdiction, anti-piracy and illegal fishing
  • Border protection and detection of migrant activity

The ViDAR software scans the 180-degree electro optic and/or infra-red sensor’s imagery feed to detect targets invisible to a human operator. It then places a thumbnail image on the operator’s screen showing the bearing and range of the target, allowing for an automated cross-cue by the inspection turret. When searching small objects including individual people, ViDAR has up to 300 times greater search coverage than an aircraft without ViDAR meaning more surveillance and lower mission costs.

Key ViDAR milestones include:

  • Awarded a $2.1 million Australian government grant to establish a sovereign in-house manufacturing facility for its world-leading ViDAR search and surveillance solutions. Sentient’s grant was awarded under the Australian government’s Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources’ (DISER) Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) Translation Stream. Once implemented, it will enable volume manufacture in Australia of the company’s ViDAR solutions for Australian and export customers.
  • Sentient is undertaking a Foreign Comparative Technology (FCT) test for the U.S. Department of Defense to provide ViDAR Maritime systems for integration and evaluation with the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). The ViDAR systems will be used for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, integrated into a medium-altitude long range unmanned aerial system operated by the USMC.
  • Helicopter prime contractor and mission system integrator Lockheed Martin has integrated ViDAR in an MH-60R as a prototype fit to demonstrate this cutting-edge Australian capability.
Posted by Sarah Simpson Specialising in digital copy Sarah is an experienced copywriter and researcher. Working with Unmanned Systems Technology Sarah has developed a passion for sourcing unique digital content and a talent for writing about the latest technical innovations in the unmanned sector. Connect & Contact
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