AI-powered robots can travel across hazardous terrains, perform remote surgery, and most importantly execute surveillance missions. As they continue to grow more sophisticated, autonomous, and fast, private players and federal agencies are gradually integrating robots within the defense landscape.
Global developments in the Robotics Industry fueled towards enhancing Defence
Most of the advanced defense technologies in the world are robots, and with time the defense industry is gradually shifting towards integrating AI into the robots they build for military applications. For instance, the military has deployed unmanned autonomous vehicles for reconnaissance (such as detecting anti-ship mines in littoral waters), monitoring coastal waters for adversaries (like pirate ships), and precision air strikes on evasive targets.
US based Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, as it is popularly called, operates under the Department of Defense is a pioneer in deploying emerging techologies in defense. The organization was established in 1958 as a reaction to the launch of Sputnik, and has since then pursued areas of interest, considered more extreme than the individual. DARPA officials had earlier released a project called, Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI), focused on machine learning and human/computer interaction. End-users can understand, trust, and manage the emerging generation of artificial intelligence (AI) systems using XAI.
Moreover, American robot-maker Boston Dynamics could use DARPA’s funding and oversights in building a bipedal humanoid robot, named Atlas. The robot stands 1.8-meter tall, and can execute a variety of search and rescue operations, furnish emergency services, and perform multiple other tasks, in environments where humans can’t possibly survive.
For the time-being, AI is mostly used by the military in non-combatant roles. Artificial Intelligence was leveraged by the States as a part of their two primary operations – Desert Storm and Desert Shield, during the events of Gulf War. The U.S. made use of an AI-powered planning tool, called DART. Moreover, projects are being undertaken which involve development of training simulators incorporating AI.
The emergence of the Private players in the landscape
Private players are entering the space, as the U.S. Air Force leverages the assistance of private industry in developing systems which facilitate faster collection and examination of information. ALPHA was initially developed by Psibernetix as a training aid for the U.S. Air Force. The AI program has been re-commissioned into a friendly co-pilot system to help human pilots using the simulator. The use of AI will help improve reaction and decision-making time to implement more effective military actions.
Military-industry partnership, maintained and encouraged through legislative, policy, and organizational innovations will be instrumental to in ensuring the appropriate use of AI for national defense. The federal government must invest towards AI and robotics, depending on the combatant needs. This will help towards developing a world class military technology.
Indian Army’s Venture into the AI landscape
India has no plans to lag in the race of equipping nations’ armed forces with up-to-date artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. CAIR is a DRDO lab, leading research in artificial intelligence for India. The organization has already developed myriad of robots with varying applications.
CAIR has been working on a project to develop a Multi Agent Robotics Framework (MARF) for more than eight months now. MARF will equip India’s armed forces with an array of robots that can function as a team, in a fashion similar to what our soldiers do. The AI-powered multi-layered architecture is capable of providing multitude of military applications, and will enable collaboration amongst a team of various robots Indian Army has already built — Wheeled Robot with Passive Suspension, Snake Robot, Legged Robot, Wall-Climbing Robot, and Robot Sentry, among others.
CAIR has also begun working on a project entailing the development of dependable intelligent mobile robots. This will assist in equipping Indian armed forces with self-reliant, adaptable, and fault-tolerant systems; besides improving robot’s’ ability to execute tasks autonomously. These robots have been designed to undertake operations in various conditions, both environmental and terrain.
Unmanned systems targeted for military operations could only be enabled by intelligence and mobility. Moreover, India has several types of terrain – mountainous, desert, rural, urban, outdoor, and indoor; each presenting its own locomotion challenge to any robotic platform. This impediment could only be tackled by undertaking extensive research in locomotion technologies.
Algorithm is the key to building Autonomous Robots
These intelligent robots need to be constrained by several algorithms running continuously and concurrently, for them to take decisions involving navigation and performing tasks. Moreover, it is additional challenge for them to function as one organized team; talking among themselves, relaying things back to the control centers, and taking orders. Advancements in AI landscape need to be supported with a special suite of algorithms, for the potential of AI in defense space to truly mature and excel. CAIR has a team dedicated to the development of Robot Perceptions, which is considered a key element of any such ‘intelligent machine.’
Concerns surrounding the use of autonomous technologies in Indian Defense
Building autonomous military robots portraying impressive AI abilities could take a few more years, but this doesn’t prevent us from doubting the morality of such an advancement. There are concerns surrounding the military usefulness and legality of such technologies. The so-called AI-powered “Harbingers of Peace” could easily turn against their creators (humans), in a moment of emotional lapse.
Moreover, using AI-based systems for support and managerial jobs is one thing, but utilizing Artificial Intelligence for developing non-human combatants is a completely different thing. Another concern perturbing researchers and technologists is that the use of AI might shift humans from the position of decision-making to that of monitoring decisions.
Will an AI policy pave way for breakthrough technologies in Indian defence sector
India’s economic and national security can be reshaped through AI technology. The country has to adopt stringent policies to drive AI adoption and innovation, in sectors which transcend beyond consumer goods and IT services. Moreover, the efficiency is supported by the proliferation in cloud technology, as massive computing power is made available on demand via cloud-based computing platforms, at much reduced costs.
This also facilitates the storage and analysis of datasets, potentially processing billions of data points in a matter of seconds. Several layers of computers work in tandem to analyze information in these large data sets, recognizing patterns, discerning behavior, and making intelligent decisions. Machine Intelligence–powered platforms can become a strategic instrument of governance in India across a wide range of public services.
Policymakers in India need to essentially worry about two issues detrimental to the widespread adoption of AI in India. The first being the education system, and the second entails skills and jobs. Machine Intelligence–powered platforms can become a strategic instrument of governance in India across a wide range of public services, from NATGRID to Aadhaar.