The US Navy Is Using AI-Equipped Underwater Drones To Help Scan For Threats

( — Underwater drones, or unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), have been in use for at least two decades. These drones can be used for scientific exploration, intelligence gathering, and ship hull inspections.

They are also used for detecting and neutralizing underwater mines, which can be vital to the safety of naval vessels and their personnel. However, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized how it can be used. The Navy has partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit (DUI) to integrate AI into underwater drones to detect underwater threats autonomously.

The AI algorithms use sonar sensors to identify shapes and navigate underwater terrain. Alex Campbell, the unit’s Navy service lead, says that this has resulted in the time it takes to search the ocean floor for mines being cut in half. Missions can have shorter durations and they can use fewer personnel. He added that the NAVY is pursuing new production contracts which will expand the uses of AI in underwater drones. They are now exploring ways to use the new technology to identify enemy ships as well as other possible threats.

Nick Ksiazek, a US Marine Corps major who works in DIU’s AI portfolio, mentioned that the Navy is also accelerating how fast they can update the AI models. Previously, they had to remove them entirely from the water, and it could take six months. Now, updates can be sent to them remotely with the machines merely surfaced on the water. Ksiasek emphasized the need for the AI models to retrain rapidly to help adapt to new terrains. Campbell agreed, pointing out that the bottom of the ocean in the Red Sea looks different than it does in Hawaii. The AI must adapt to constantly changing situations.

Devising and implementing new military applications for AI may be crucial for the U.S. to maintain a technological edge over hostile forces. China has put such technology at the center of its approach to modern warfare. Recently, the Navy tested an innovative new underwater drone named the “Manta Ray,” which can “hibernate” anchored to the seabed in low-power mode. Russia is also developing its own underwater drones. As in other dangerous eras in human history, military technology must advance on land, in the air, and at sea.

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