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Aerospace scientists see AI, laser weapons as top tech trends for 2017
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Aerospace scientists see AI, laser weapons as top tech trends for 2017 

Not likely, but artificial intelligence technology and autonomous systems with technology akin to those found in commercially available digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa will begin making their way into the aerospace and defence industry, according to scientists.

Global aerospace and defence technology company Lockheed Martin recently released its top tech trends list for 2017.

Autonomy

Autonomy may not be brand spanking new anymore, says Lockheed, “but what’s surprising is how engineers are ‘teaching’ technology to be more autonomous.”

Machine learning, allows systems to employ complex algorithms to discern patterns in data and provide humans with information and options to base their decisions on.

By developing these capabilities further, autonomous systems can potentially solve many of today’s challenging problems enabling humans to explore the depths of oceans and space as well as aid and rescue operations in emergency situations and natural disasters.

According to the U.S. Air Force, ground collision is the cause of 75 percent of F-16 pilot fatalities, making this autonomic technology one of the most important safety features added to the fighter jet since ejection seats.

An example of where autonomy is heading is the F-16 fighter jet’s Autonomous Ground Collision Avoidance System. The system is designed to detect when something has gone wrong and take control of the plane before it crashes —saving the plane, and most importantly, the life of the pilot.

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“Lockheed Martin’s continuous advancements in state of the art technologies for trust, complex control, and navigation in chaos positions all Lockheed Martin business areas to be leading providers of autonomous capabilities for our partners and platforms,” said Robbie Mandelbaum, director of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories.

Human-machine collaboration

In 2017, we will continue to see a focus on developing technologies that improve the partnership of human-machine teams, specifically designing the right kind of sensors to expand the possibilities. 

“With human-machine teaming, it’s as much about the machine understanding the human’s day-to-day needs as it’s the human understanding how well the machine operates in various contexts,” explains Dr. Bill Casebeer, Lockheed Martin cognitive scientist. 

For instance, fighter jets outfitted with sensors can gather data on the environment to help pilots make strategic decisions. But, if pilots were also equipped with sensors, jet systems could monitor a pilots’ neurological activity to assess their performance and physical state, and respectively handle certain tasks that might distract from the mission. 

Broadband Electromagnetic Aperture

Mobile collaboration and social media technology already allow us to hold simultaneous multiple conversations in both the enterprise and consumer spaces.

Lockheed foresees advanced systems that allow military personnel to “listen and process information from those conversations at the same time.”

While you’ve probably heard of broadband in the context of wireless and Internet communications, Lockheed Martin is using broadband technology to support radar, electronic warfare and communications missions simultaneously. 

“Sensors could go into a contested environment and listen, detect, process and then deny or divert a potential threat,” said Jerry Nespor, a Lockheed Martin Engineering Fellow. 

This type of sensor technology is being driven by the fifth generation Wi-Fi community, as well as the automobile industry, as self-driving cars would rely on advanced sensors for increased autonomy, as well.

Directed Energy

Think laser weapons.

In 2015, Lockheed Martin tested its Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) laser weapon system and knocked out a truck’s engine from a considerable distance.

The team now plans to expand testing to unmanned aerial vehicles in 2017. 

“We continue to invest in research and development in this arena so when we receive requirements from a customer, we’ll be ready to respond to however those requirements are expressed,” said Paul Shattuck, director and chief engineer for directed energy systems at Lockheed Martin. “Affordability is also more important than it ever used to be. Our goal is to design the crown jewel while creating a more affordable per-unit cost.”

Cyber-Hardened Weapons

State-backed hacker groups breaking into government and corporate computer systems have become near-everyday headlines. And so, for good reasons, defence departments around the world are focusing on cyber security.

Cyber hardening and defense techniques, like the Cyber Kill Chain, help protect defense and government platforms from persistent threats, according to Lockheed.

The term kill chain was originally used as a military concept associated with the structure of an attack. It consists of target identification, force dispatch to target, decision and order to attack the target, and destruction of the target.

Of course, the idea has also been used to preemptively destroy an opponent’s kill chain.

Recently, Lockheed has adopted the concept to information security and uses it for modeling intrusions on a computer network.

“Ultimately, it all comes back to securing threats and challenges across multiple domains and ensuring operators’ ability to successfully—and confidently—achieve their missions,” said Doug Booth, business development for Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Solutions.

For a complete list of the Lockheed Martin’s Technology Trends for 2017, click here.

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