Military & Aerospace

Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on the Indian Armed Forces
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 May , 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour of computers. It is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. It is a transformative technology that has tremendous applications in the social, economic and military fields.

This is a field which needs to be looked at seriously to ensure that we are able to upgrade our ability to undertake difficult tasks.

It can revolutionise the way human beings live, work, learn, discover and communicate, Research in this field would increase our economic prosperity, improve educational opportunities, quality of life, and enhance our national security thereby upgrading our Comprehensive National Power.

Undoubtedly the smart phone of today enables calculation, communication, photography, net banking, timekeeper, organiser, music system, receiver for radio and television broad casts as also passing messages to intelligent systems. We are already using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Unmanned Petrol Pumps, Driverless cars, unmanned sea vehicles, audio typing machines, robots undertaking industrial activities and complex issues like surgery in hospitals.

This is a field which needs to be looked at seriously to ensure that we are able to upgrade our ability to undertake difficult tasks. Being a Scientific field, it is important to undertake prioritised Research to improve our efficiency.

Strategy for Research and Development

It would be pertinent to understand the National Artificial Intelligence, Research and Development Strategic Plan of the United States as worked out in October 2016, to know a method to tackle this subject. It all began almost 61 years ago at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in the United States where they discussed seminal ideas on the subject of AI. They imagined a world in which machines use language, form abstractions, concepts, solve the kinds of problems now reserved for humans and improve themselves.

…instead of replacing humans, most systems will collaborate with humans to achieve optimal performance. Research is needed to create effective interaction between human and AI systems.

This historic meeting set the stage for decades of United States Government research in AI, including advances in perception, automated reasoning, planning, cognitive systems, machine learning, natural language, processing, robotics and related fields. Currently these research advances have resulted in new sectors of economy, mapping technologies, voice assisted smart phones, hand writing recognition for mail delivery, financial trading, surveillance, target acquisition, smart planes, ships, vehicles, ammunition, smart logistics, spam filtering, language translation, robots performing numerous industrial, medical and military tasks.

The entire process has received impetus in large part by adoption of statistical and probabilistic methods, the availability of large amount and increased computer processing power. In the last ten years, the subfield of machine learning, which has enabled computers to learn from experience? Recently great attention has been paid to the importance of statistical approaches such as deep learning; advances have also been made in other areas such as perception, natural language processing, formal logics. Knowledge representations, robotics, control theory, cognitive system architectures, search and optimisation techniques and numerous other applications.

It is interesting to note the US Government strategic plan for research. Details are as mentioned below:-

•  Strategy 1. To make long term investments in AI research. This is to prioritise investments in the next generation of AI that will drive discovery and insight thereby enabling the US to remain a world leader in AI.

•  Strategy 2. To develop effective methods for human AI collaboration. This would ensure that instead of replacing humans, most systems will collaborate with humans to achieve optimal performance. Research is needed to create effective interaction between human and AI systems.

AI research in India has been primarily focussed on societal needs. Most of the research has been applied towards machine translation, natural language and text speech related applications.

•  Strategy 3.  To understand, and address the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI. Research is directed with AI systems to ensure that they comply with these aspects.

•  Strategy 4. Ensure that these systems are safe and secure. Further these systems must be dependable and reliable.

•  Strategy 5. To develop shared public datasets and environments for AI testing and training resources.

•  Strategy 6.  Undertake measurement and evaluation of AI technologies through standards and benchmarks as also test beds and community engagement that guide and evaluate progress.

•  Strategy 7. Create a strong AI work force of experts.

The obvious question to ask is what the Strategy in India is for AI. The advances in AI provide impetus to India to make AI a critical element of India’s National Security Strategy.

The current challenges faced by India are that the application to date have been driven largely by the private sector and primarily focussed on consumer goods. The emergent scale and implications of the technology make it imperative for policymakers in Government to take notice.

CAIR has developed a Chess playing Robot as also robots for inspection of components and an intelligent wheel chair for physically challenged persons.

Currently AI has been looked at both by the private sector and educational institutions. Infosys recently announced its decision to support AI research efforts at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi apart from its commitment to open-source AI research efforts led by Space X founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk       under the Open AI project. With Arya.ai and just a small number of AI start ups beginning to make their mark domestically. It is pertinent to note that Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have largely carried out publicly funded research in AI. However, this research has been limited and lags behind United States and Europe. AI research in India has been primarily focussed on societal needs. Most of the research has been applied towards machine translation, natural language and text speech related applications.

Impact of AI on the Indian Armed Forces

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have a laboratory specifically dedicated to AI known as Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR). The laboratory with about 150 qualified scientists focuses on the following areas:-

  • AI, Robotics and Control Systems.
  • Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence Systems.
  • Communication and Networking.
  • Communication Secrecy.

The Laboratory has been concentrating on AI and Communications. It   is pertinent to note that CAIR has already developed robots for non destructive testing of composite parts of Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas). Apart from these the following projects are under development:-

•  AI techniques for Net Centric Operations. (AINCO). This is a suite of technologies for creation of knowledge base, semantic information reception and handling, interference reasoning and event correlation.

Viewing the strategy of AI for the United States AI could have numerous applications. These would depend on the level of technology which we can have to make computers and machines analyse and think like soldier and the officer in the Armed Forces.

•  Development of a family of robots for surveillance and reconnaissance applications. These comprise RoboSen- a mobile robot system targeted at patrolling, reconnaissance and surveillance. It is capable of autonomous navigation in semi structured environments with obstacle avoidance capability and continuous video feedback. The next is a miniaturised man portable Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) for low intensity conflicts and surveillance in urban scenario. Further they are developing a wall climbing and flapping wing robot as also a walking robot with four and six legs for logistics support.

•  It is interesting to note that CAIR has developed a Chess playing Robot as also robots for inspection of components and an intelligent wheel chair for physically challenged persons.

•  CAIR has also developed Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA) which can monitor internet traffic. It can analyse voice traffic passing through software such as Skype, Google Talk and intercept messages with key words attack, bomb, blast, kill and other words in real time. A practical tool for intelligence.

There is no doubt that seminal research is being done at CAIR. These would be translated to suitable applications for the Indian Armed Forces. AI has tremendous impact on the Indian Armed Forces. Viewing the strategy of AI for the United States AI could have numerous applications. These would depend on the level of technology which we can have to make computers and machines analyse and think like soldier and the officer in the Armed Forces.

Currently the Indian Armed Forces is closely working with CAIR on its project dealing with MARF. The type of Robots includes the Snake, the legged Robot, the Wall Climber and the UGV.

At the level of planning, they can provide multiple options for a plan at the strategic, operational and tactical level. In terms of equipment the UAV exists in the Armed Forces and soon UGV and unmanned water vehicles would be developed. The robot can perform numerous functions from a sentry to a surgeon in the battle field. Gradually difficult operations like mining, demining, launching of assault bridges, flying across water obstacles and para dropped robots with tasks along with Special Forces will be undertaken by this AI Force. Apart from this field logistics will be handled purely by robots.

Currently the Indian Armed Forces is closely working with CAIR on its project dealing with Multi Agent Robotics Framework (MARF). The type of Robots includes the Snake, the legged Robot, the Wall Climber and the UGV. Apart from these they need to jointly focus on the following

•  Image interpretation for target identification and classification. AI techniques could automate the extraction of low level map features from imagery.

•  Systems for diagnosis and maintenance of sophisticated weapon systems.

•  Missile – target range and trajectory analysis for evaluation of kill zones and launch time and simulation to assist in qualifying missile performance in various environments.

•  Enhanced use of robots for anti Improvised Explosive Device, extraction of personnel, firing of guns and other applications.

The entire process would result in modernisation of various functions thereby enhancing operational efficiency.

Conclusion

The Indian Armed Forces need to apply AI to optimise its functioning in the battle field and improve its operational preparedness. A definite strategy needs to be drawn at the Service Headquarters for its effective implementation.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen PK Chakravorty

former Additional Director General Artillery.

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