The US Army is no stranger to autonomous systems like drones. Not only do uncrewed vehicles help protect soldiers, but they also can operate to a level of precision that is often hard to match. But this is old news. While having such systems in place can supplement individual machinery and operating systems, their effectiveness would go far beyond today’s capabilities if they’re able to communicate with each other.

Coordination Requires Different Technology

Imagine forces automatically coordinated — sea, airspace, and on the ground— that work together seamlessly. According to Army Futures Command’s John “Mike” Murray, this sort of data sharing could create significant tactical advantages. To pair unmanned systems, the Army would be relying on the capabilities of artificial intelligence. This is easier said than done when it comes to fighting a war, considering it’s a technology that’s just beginning to make its foothold.

Team Ignite

To create this technology, Murray’s command has begun what he calls “Team Ignite,” which seeks to develop concepts from the military in conjunction with the creation of the software. It will be necessary for the Army AI’s algorithms to be protected to a degree characteristic of the military. In the early stages, Murray’s team hopes to eliminate the gaps in communication, expectation, and rollout between the branch’s operations and its technological capabilities.

Education Opportunities

As a part of recent funding increases for AI development, the Army is developing a masters program with Carnegie Mellon University. The course will dually train young officers in artificial intelligence, as well as improve upon coding skills that some officers may already have. After four or five months in the classroom, officers will spend another five or six on the Army AI Task Force before being sent back.

The task force, established in 2019, is located in Pittsburgh along the city’s “Robotics Row” and works alongside the Army Futures Command. With the researchers at Carnegie Mellon, the group focuses primarily on enhancing the Army’s situational awareness as they develop more autonomous machinery and systems. While this isn’t the first example of research cooperation between the Department of Defense and academic institutions, the combination of government officials and AI experts is a significant step forward in the Army’s utilization of artificial intelligence technologies.

AI Literacy Crucial for the Future

As the future of warfare looks increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence, computer, coding, and AI literacy among servicemen and women will become ever more critical. Mistakes in coding a simple AI software like Siri or Alexa can be reworked and fixed in the next update. But when it comes to controlling deadly machines, identifying and reacting to information, and coordinating attacks across the world, the need for precision will become paramount.

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Jack is a finance and economics major at the University of Nebraska and a graduate of Creighton Prep. Husker/Cub guy. Used to throw a decent curveball, but running is his game now.