If the U.S. military is going to fight alongside robots, it better include them in mission planning.
Early this year DARPA’s Squad X technology development program held a week-long series of tests at Twentynine Palms, Calif. While Marines demonstrated the powerful ISR potential of emerging autonomous technologies, they also proved a less-obvious point about the need for pre-planning at the intersection of autonomy and combat.
“We demonstrated that the artificial intelligence starts in mission planning and rehearsal. That’s key,” said Army Lt. Col. Phil Root, program manager for the agency’s tactical technology office.
The experiment had soldiers working alongside multiple unmanned ground and aerial vehicles equipped with a range of advanced targeting and sensing gear, including radio frequency and multispectral sensors. Testers sought to integrate the new abilities into the battle scenario not just as dumb tools, but rather as collaborative partners fighting alongside their human peers.
“We are asking a young Marine to wrestle with how to trust AI,” Root said. “As we included the AI in the rehearsal, we could place the blue forces into the decision engine and see what actions the AI would take.”
The hope, he said, is that human fighters would have a greater sense of confidence in their autonomous partners, as well as a better understanding of how the autonomous systems would likely act on the battlefield.