On December 20, 2019, the US Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) published a Request for Information (RFI) to identify partners for a potential artificial intelligence drone platform.
The Pentagon’s JAIC request for information is aimed at finding out if AI developers and drone swarm builders can come together to support search and rescue missions.
The goal for the RFI is to discover whether industry can deliver a full-stack search and rescue drone swarm that can self-pilot, detect humans and other targets and stream data and video back to a central location.
The potential solicitation would also look for companies or teams that can provide algorithms, machine training processes and data to supplement that provided by the government.
The ideal result would be a contract with several vendors “that together could provide the capability to fly to a predetermined location/area, find people and manmade objects—through onboard edge processing—and cue analysts to look at detections sent via a datalink to a control station,” according to the RFI.
“Sensors shall be able to stream full motion video to an analyst station during the day or night; though, the system will not normally be streaming as the AI will be monitoring the imagery instead of a person.”
The RFI contains a number of must-haves, including:
- The ability to launch from air, sea and ground.
- Capable of flying for at least two hours at a minimum of 50 knots airspeed.
- Air droppable from another aircraft in flight.
- Able to launch and fly to a predetermined search area and follow a predetermined pattern.
- Capable of searching a geo-fenced area.
- Sensors able to cover at least 100 square nautical miles.
- A datalink enabling continuous communication with the ground station or launch platform.
Despite it being presumably humanitarian and with the aim of search and rescue, all training data will be government-owned and entirely confidential. All development work will be done using government-owned data and on secure government systems.
JAIC works with DARPA and other secretive high-level Pentagon agencies. They already operate drone swarms that can “hunt” for humans, with human input, but a potential implementation of a swarm that doesn’t require any human input is also not out of the question.
Most likely due to pure coincidence, on December 31st, mysterious drone swarms were seen flying above rural northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska, in groups of up to 30.
Separately, the US military has been employing drone swarms, albeit human-controlled ones since 2017.
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