Technology is rapidly evolving, and nowhere is that transformation more robust than in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Whether talking about a chatbot or connected IoT (internet of things) sensors analyzing large amounts of data, AI is one of human history's most significant technological advances. We're only at the cusp of what AI will look like and be capable of as advances in processing and autonomy are happening rapidly. One of the areas that AI, in particular, embedded AI, is so beneficial for is military defense and aerospace operations, exploration, and more.
The future of warfare is a connected one. The realization that competing global powers are all striving for AI dominance makes some leaders lose sleep at night. Those nations with the most significant investment and expertise in embedded AI systems have a marked advantage over their global rivals now and in the future. Big data and machine learning are at the forefront of many generals' minds, and government-set budgets for military spending have huge portions set aside for AI research and development. With global instability increasing in recent years due to the conflict in Ukraine, more military spending is expected to focus on artificial intelligence and adoption across all military branches and systems.
Embedded systems are software-and-hardware computer systems that do a dedicated function of a broader device or system. They are installed everywhere, from your smartphone to vehicles, machinery, elevators, satellites, medical equipment, and more. Embedded AI is when AI is embedded into a particular device or network's system software to capture and analyze data for a specific outcome. For example, embedded AI can use vibration sensor data on an elevator system to predict when it will need maintenance. This allows repairs to be made before something breaks, leading to a better elevator network.
The military and aerospace applications for AI are many, but the most common ways AI is used for aerospace & defense are the following:
These serve a specific purpose within an embedded system and are especially useful for aircraft and defense applications.
Using artificially intelligent enhanced computer vision is vital in enabling aircraft technology with autonomous learning systems for defense and aerospace applications. Modern aircraft have installed robust synthetic vision systems, which analyze flight data from multiple sensors and onboard databases to recreate a cockpit view. This provides pilots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a realistic view of their flying environment, regardless of the weather or time of day.
Autonomous vehicles use computer vision and analyze sensor data to "read" or perceive the surrounding environment and detect obstacles or other hazards they must avoid. Some computer vision applications include:
For UAVs and autonomous aerial vehicles, AI with machine learning keeps these aircraft from colliding with the terrain, other vehicles, buildings, etc. If a computer vision component is damaged or the data is corrupt, it can lead to collisions and other aircraft disasters. Because of the sheer volume of data, these systems must analyze in real-time, so only the most robust embedded AI system software is capable.
As the size of components and the costs associated with these components are reduced, we see a shift towards computing processing at the data point. Whether we mean an edge-cloud for on-site data processing or directly in the devices, AI applications increasingly power more intelligent and robust military missions and platforms.
Developing smaller and more capable military-grade electronic technology has overcome many physical challenges of previous years. The shrinking of computing architectures through wafer-stacking and system-in-package techniques has reduced the size of embedded AI devices. Efficient cooling systems minimize heat generation from these miniature, energy-intensive, dense embedded AI computing cores, allowing reliable deterministic processing in gear already worn by military personnel. More advanced manufacturing processes enable the world's most powerful CPUs (central processing unit), FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), and GPGUPs (general-purpose graphics processing unit) accelerators and processors to be mounted ruggedly to devices throughout a military tool kit or vehicle. All this means embedded AI is more portable than ever, which is critical for real-world military applications, exercises, and battlefields.
Artificial-Intelligence algorithms form "neural networks," which you can think of as a computer representation of the human brain through data. These neural networks are trained to analyze large amounts of data looking for specific instances to find an outcome. The data is often classified and highly sensitive in military and aerospace applications, so enhanced cyber-security is a must in a zero-trust environment like the battlefield.
AI is important because as the number of devices and sensors connected to a system increases year-over-year, it leads to more attack points from cyber-terrorists, enemies, or bad actors. If we consider a technology system like an F-35's computer-controlled cockpit, there is a lot of highly restricted data. From data about the aircraft, its control systems, how it communicates with the ground, personnel manifests, and more. Securing these systems requires a serious look at cyber-security, and one way to ensure the system is incorruptible is through blockchain technology.
Although similar to military applications for embedded systems, the aerospace industry differs in a few ways. Firstly, many aerospace applications are not safety-critical, as the aircraft is in space and has little risk of impacting objects, and "terrain" doesn't exist. But regarding mission-critical systems, the processing requirements are substantial and benefit significantly from artificial intelligence.
The aerospace industry is highly fragmented and includes various commercial aviation, military, and space exploration sectors. AI for aerospace can be used from the beginning manufacturing process while tackling safety concerns and vehicle operations. One of the biggest ways embedded AI changes the industry is through "smart maintenance."
Maintenance is essential for any aerospace vehicle. Many of us have had delays on a plane due to maintenance issues. Maintenance is an ongoing and ceaseless component of the aerospace and defense industries. Artificial intelligence is now being used to predict where and when a piece of machinery will require repairs. This allows operators and maintenance crews to update and repair an aircraft or component of machinery before they fail. In the aviation industry, this is a must. You can't be at 35,000 feet and realize you must repair something. It isn't possible and puts all lives on board and lives on the ground at risk.
Embedded systems send sensor data to the AI algorithm to analyze. If particular vibration sensor data illustrates that a part will fail soon, the system immediately alerts maintenance personnel to repair the piece. This prevents lengthy delays on the runway and helps avoid significant catastrophes from happening. Beyond the risk of loss of life is the financial impact of missed flights and late maintenance. One delayed flight leads to a cascade of delayed flights on the chain and around an airport, so keeping things moving on time is something the aerospace and aviation industries always aim for. For reusable space shuttles, it is no different.
Embedded AI technology is new. There are few experts in the field and even fewer companies providing solutions suitable for the stringent privacy concerns of the military and aerospace industries. A platform ideal for a smart home won't be right for a highly advanced piece of aircraft equipment. So, technology partnerships are critical to military organizations, governments, and military spending budgets. Creating an AI from the ground up for a specific purpose is best left to the private sector, which has the funding, expertise, staff, and network to develop and operate an embedded AI system for military defense.
Internet of Everything Corporation (IoE) is one of those organizations developing an embedded AI platform suitable for military and aerospace, known as Eden. Eden is an all-encompassing, autonomous, self-healing, machine learning-enhanced, peer-to-peer, walled private garden that uses blockchain for verification and data security. It is the ideal system to tackle the data-driven operations of both the military and aerospace industries.
Eden is now open for partnership applications. Please complete the quick form; an IoE crew member will contact you shortly.