Making Sense of AI in Future Battle Domains


The battlefield of the future will bring together data from tens of thousands of sensors across the domains: land, air, sea, cyber, and space. The ability to process the data from the domains and context of these sensors, then make real-time decisions must rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and deep machine learning. Yet, to achieve the benefits of AI and its capabilities, it must be paired with human analysis and understanding.  

To make sense of the future with AI, we recently spoke with Jana Eggers, CEO of AI advisor platform company, Nara Logics. Eggers told us that AI can be broken down into two primary areas. The first is perception, such as understanding speech, images, or patterns. The second area, where Eggers and her team focus, is around cognition. “On the cognition side, we look at how the different streams of perceived and environmental information come together to support people in making better decisions,” she stated. 

In explaining AI in its simplest terms, Eggers drew an analogy between artificial intelligence and artificial light. “Artificial intelligence isn’t going to replace human intelligence, just like artificial light didn’t replace the sun,” she explained. “AI works in a very different way from our natural intelligence and can be used to extend our natural intelligence so that we can process more information and make decisions faster.” 

Computers compute; those computed patterns and details derived from the AI, expands what humans can consider, Eggers explained. “Humans find analogies and examine relational impact. So, there is a nice balance between man and machine when the two things work hand-in-hand, or silicon-in-hand.” 

This decision-making process is critical for the defense industry, especially in Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) efforts, where sensors are producing incredible amounts of data. Taking in the data and making it actionable is the goal.  

“First and foremost, we prioritize life. How do we protect our soldiers, warfighters, and our citizens and the citizens of our allies?” Eggers asked. “AI can help make sure we only react when absolutely required, and then ensure that our targets are more accurate, making sure we take out communications and equipment, not humans.”  

To speed up that decision-making process, the data needs to be accurately assessed in real time, and the augmented intelligence must be easy to consume. Eggers’ team helps their customers create what they call “advisors” that use AI to look at patterns and context signals to deliver course of action options. Each course of action comes with reasoning, what they call “why reasons.” The system enables a greater level of understanding from the user, gives multiple scenarios, and allows the user to add in parameters in real-time to see impacts. By allowing the user to develop a stronger understanding of the advised options and why they are given, the user builds a greater trust in the results which speeds up decision-making.  

Many other defense experts are actively participating in this conversation around AI’s role in the battlefield too. Recently, at AUSA 2020, U.S. Army officials discussed how AI can help reduce false-positives and enable faster decisions to take down unmanned aerial vehicles and drones, which have been a growing threat. Col. Marc Pelini, Division Chief for Capabilities and Requirements spoke about AI for counter drone defense.  

National Defense Magazine recently reported that oftentimes, small drones have gone undetected or caused false alarms for non-threating UAVs and the Army is looking to reduce these by leveraging AI. “Artificial intelligence will reduce the burden on human operators and improve their decision-making,” Pelini said. By creating less complex systems that are user-friendly, Pelini wants speed up reaction times for thwarting attacks while using an intuitive solution that can be operated by any soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. 

The future of AI in defense, according to Eggers, is augmenting warfighters with real-time, relevant knowledge from across domains. Currently, the defense industry, and the U.S. Army in particular, is identifying opportunities to better connect with the broader AI community in order to identify requirements and concepts of solutions that can enable the warfighter.