As officials seek to counter America’s adversaries’ technological advances, our defense moves are outpacing the commercial automation efforts by ground, in the air, and below the surf. In January, the $740 Billion defense authorization bill Congress passed is filled with mandates and provisions aimed at expanding automation and promoting autonomous operations across the armed forces. The companies that the military is working with include Kaman Corp., Lockheed Martin, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., Boeing, and Airbus. Implementations of these autonomous versions of artificial intelligence will come in many different forms across each branch of the armed forces.

The Marines are working with Kaman Corp. to design a way for autonomous choppers to deliver emergency air drops to soldiers at remote outposts. This idea dates to the height of the war in Afghanistan, where it would have helped deserted troops immensely. Additionally, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit has been in connection with the defense department’s research team to exemplify that advanced controls are essential to mobilizing fleets of autonomous technologies for strategic missions.

Naval admirals have been drafting a two-decade plan focusing on creating an entourage of more than 120 vessels that could operate without crews both on the water, and through the air. Navy researchers are working along-side Boeing and shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. to deploy a fleet of large autonomous vehicles called “Orcas” to carry cargo internationally, transport divers and troops, as well as look for underwater mines. In January, Congress authorized a $125 Million plan to initiate research on “long-duration autonomous ship operations”. These Huntington Ingalls ships would operate on the surface of the water for months at a time on their own.

“The Air Force is driving automation in a way it hasn’t over the past decade,” said Will Roper, former Chief Acquisitions Official. Also, the Air Force’s uniformed and civilian leaders have made the biggest public push among the services toward extensive reliance on automation. According to Roper, before he stepped down to make way for the Biden appointees, a “combination of manned and unmanned aircraft teaming together to do missions that neither could do alone” would provide results most effectively.

₱The Army is working to reengineer a version of the long-standing Bradley combat vehicle that could function without human operators inside of the cabin hatch. Skeptics of the expansion of autonomous systems worry that the systems reflect the software developers’ want to implement other capabilities without proper testing. The January funding bill came with legislation to combat possible liabilities in the evolution of autonomous vehicles. This goes to ensure that all adequate testing is done, and precautions are made in the testing process. With all said and done, the testing for these defensive technologies will be controlled and precise.

Going forward, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are already poised to change the way that training, and missions will be effectively handled in the future. What are your thoughts on the expanding defensive technology sector?