AI will help Royal Navy warships detect combat threats

Currently in testing, AI could help Navy warships react to threats faster

AI is to become an integral part of maritime operations run by the Royal Navy, helping its warships detect and assess threats in combat scenarios.

The artificial intelligence software, called Startle, will be supplied by Roke Manor Research to help the Navy detect and tackle impending threats.

Startle is a machine situational awareness software that works through a combination of different algorithms and intelligence features.

Engineered to reflect the human brain's conditioned fear-response mechanism, the system can scan complex environments and learn to detect threats more easily, based on those it has previously encountered.

After two successful initial phases that proved Roke could use Startle to analyse complex data, the Navy's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has commissioned a third phase of the 1 million project.

In this phase, the tool will be integrated into DSTL's maritime combat system demonstrator called the Open Architecture Combat System (OACS), which replicates combat situations Navy staff may find themselves in.

Mike Hook, lead software architect on Startle, said: "The clever part comes in the way these potential threats are detected and the way our software redistributes resources to decide if they are real - all in the blink of an eye."

"This is an exciting project for us. Traditional methods of processing data can be inefficient so we have looked at the human brain's tried and tested means of detecting and assessing threats to help us design a better way to do it."

If put into use in real combat situations, Startle would be integrated into existing warship sensor suites, and its ability to detect and assess potential threats is designed to help a warship's human staff make decisions faster. 

In future, Startle could also become a useful integration for self-driving cars, as well as health and usage monitoring, Roke said.

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