AI tech projects get funding to help warship crews tackle ‘information overload’

Artificial intelligence research projects developing technologies to help warship crews cope with “information overload” will receive £1 million in funding, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

Nine projects will share the money awarded through The Defence and Security Accelerator (Dasa)’s Intelligent Ship – The Next Generation competition.

The competition, backed overall by £4 million over two phases, aims to improve how human crews and artificial intelligence (AI) programmes interact on warships, aircraft and land vehicles from 2040.

Dasa, the Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s innovation hub, is looking at how to exploit technological advances in automation, autonomy, machine learning and AI to ensure the country’s defence capabilities are able to respond to increasingly complex threats to national security.

Royal Navy stock
HMS Westminster approaching Portsmouth (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Work under the prototype demonstrator Intelligent Ship competition has the potential to inform the design and operation of equipment across all of the armed forces, the MoD said.

Defence minister James Heappey said: “The astonishing pace at which global threats are evolving requires new approaches and fresh-thinking to the way we develop our ideas and technology.

“The funding will research pioneering projects into how AI and automation can support our armed forces in their essential day-to-day work.”

The nine projects to share the initial £1 million funding include Daden Ltd, Nottingham Trent University, Roke Manor Research Ltd, GE Energy Power Conversion UK Ltd and Affect In Ltd.

Also sharing the money are Montvieux Limited, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, decisionLab and Thales UK Ltd.

Dasa works with academia and scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an executive agency of the MoD, to find and fund technologies to boost the country’s armed forces.

Gavin Williamson visit to HM Naval Base Clyde
Work in the control room onboard HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde (James Glossop/The Times/PA)

Julia Tagg, from the Dstl AI Lab, said: “This Dasa competition has the potential to lead the transformation of our defence platforms, leading to a sea change in the relationships between AI and human teams.

“This will ensure UK defence remains an effective, capable force for good in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

“Crews are already facing information overload with thousands of sources of data, intelligence, and information.

“By harnessing automation, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence with the real-life skill and experience of our men and women, we can revolutionise the way future fleets are put together and operate to keep the UK safe.”

Dasa delivery manager Adam Moore said: “Dasa brings together the brightest minds in science, industry and academia to turbocharge innovations to keep the UK, as well as those who protect us, safe from emerging and evolving threats to our way of life.

“This project will ensure the Royal Navy and all our Armed Forces stays one step ahead of our adversaries.”

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