The US Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence (NCARAI) has conducted initial human studies of the tactical battle manager (TBM) technology.
NRL’s TBM is a software system that deploys intelligent agents to guide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that each serve as a ‘wingman’ in manned / unmanned teams, in simulated beyond-visual-range (BVR) air combat missions.
The TBM offers cross-platform coordination of both manned and unmanned air combat teams in order to function in highly contested environments, as well as enables human operators to manage the UAVs on a team by coordinating their objectives or goals.
Under these scenarios, operators control the lead air vehicle and communicate with TBM-controlled autonomous agents that achieve predetermined goals by observing the environment through its sensors.
The agents enable themselves to dynamically self-select mission objectives by employing goal reasoning techniques, thereby ensuring competent behaviour when the operator is inaccessible or unanticipated situations arise.
The team from NRL incorporated the TBM solution into the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Analytical Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modelling (AFSIM) and NAVAIR’s Next Generation Threat System (NGTS).
NCARAI Adaptive Systems Section head Dr David W. Aha said: “The main idea here is if the UAV / wingman is left to its own devices, it has the ability to recognise when or how to change its goal or objective as the mission scenario unfolds.
“While some systems allow users to insert new goals or pre-programme the selection of new goals, goal reasoning agents can dynamically select new goals to pursue that are not pre-programmed.”
Aha also stated that during the initial human studies' counter-air scenarios, expert pilots claimed that they had a positive attitude for trusting the TBM’s ability to control a UAV under their command.
NRL's NCARAI has been collaborating with the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the AFRL to continue working on the TBM.
Image: An expert pilot participates in simulated human-UAV air combat scenarios using the AFRL’s pilot-vehicle Interface, where, the UAV is controlled by NRL’s Tactical Battle Manager. Photo: courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory.