AI set to play key role in naval operations

Roke Manor Research (Roke) is due to be the first supplier to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) software into a Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) sponsored maritime combat system demonstrator.

The news comes as Dstl awards the contract for a third phase of a £1m investment in threat detection software that is designed to help the Royal Navy handle the growing complexity of threats.

Aptly named STARTLE, the machine situational awareness software continuously monitors and evaluates potential threats using a combination of artificial intelligence techniques. It is inspired by the way the human brain works, emulating the mammalian conditioned-fear response mechanism. Rapidly detecting and assessing potential threats, the software significantly augments human operator situational awareness in complex environments.

If integrated into existing warship sensor suites, it would support the Principal Warfare Officer by intelligently processing multiple sources of information, whilst cueing systems to assess and confirm potential threats. In increasingly complex and dynamic mission environments, it could allow the command team to make better informed decisions faster.  The vital seconds it contributes to decision making could be the difference between success and failure.

Mike Hook, lead software architect on STARTLE at Roke, said: “This is an exciting project for us. Traditional methods of processing data can be inefficient so we have 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. The techniques have the potential to benefit the Royal Navy.

“The first two phases of the project have proven that we’ve been able to successfully apply these techniques to real data from complex scenarios. The clever part comes in the way these potential threats are detected and the way our software redistributes resources to decide if they are real – all in the blink of an eye.”

David Cole, Managing Director for Roke said: “The project draws upon every element of Roke’s 60 years of experience in sensors, data science, communications and cyber security. Innovations such as these build real momentum for our clients, enabling the pull through of research into operational capability.”

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