NATO focuses on big data and artificial intelligence

  • Published
  • By Corrie Poland
  • Air Force Operational Energy

Members of the scientific and military communities from approximately 20 NATO countries came together to discuss leading developments in big data and artificial intelligence (AI) at the NATO Science and Technology Organization’s specialists meeting, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for Military Decision Making, from May 30 – June 01, 2018 in Bordeaux, France.

Over the three day seminar, approximately 300 experts and researchers in data, artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation, and military operations discussed how technology, data and machine learning are increasingly influencing the trajectory of modern warfare – and the inherent risks and challenges involved. The meeting’s purpose was to better inform technology acquisition, funding, and operational decisions within the NATO community. Specific topics focused on systems and operations, human-machine interface, security, and enabling technologies. 

Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Air Force for Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, led the senior leader panel on June 01. Mr. Guerrero spoke of the importance of data collection and analysis for decision-making, while emphasizing the challenge his office faces in obtaining sufficient and accurate aviation fuel use and other operational data.

“The Air Force is ramping up its efforts to collect sufficient data that inform smart operations,” said Guerrero. “In order to optimize the Force and increase our lethality, we must continue to digitize the battlefield and unleash the power of big data.”

Guerrero stated that his office, Air Force Operational Energy, is working with the Air Force Major Commands to collect larger aviation fuel datasets and use the resulting insights to drive decision-making.  In one graph shown, his office’s findings revealed how excessive fuel loads can affect everything from aircraft efficiency to maintenance issues that affect readiness.  He explained that data fusion has led to new insights about the far-reaching effects of flight planning and the impact to the warfighter, helping inform Air Force leaders and support the overall mission. 

Throughout the seminar, much of the discussion centered on improving data collection, integration, and accessibility in order to promote readiness and increase lethality in the transition to more and more complex information landscapes on the battlefield. Questions posed included: How can data help us to better predict adversarial attacks? How can we help commanders make more informed decisions quickly? How can we leverage social media, while understanding its innate risks?

Over the course of three days, attendees discussed major challenges such as understanding how to integrate autonomous and human decision support, the dangers of a “poisoned” data environment, edge computing, and the ethical and legal considerations of AI in the battle space.  The way forward will continue collaboration between the scientific and military communities to integrate research, commercial technologies, and military capabilities that support NATO’s mission to protect its member states.