WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO (AFRL) — Multi AI, an Austin, Texas-based tech company, has partnered with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s, or AFRL, Information Directorate to provide an autonomous mission planning system for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs and other assets using the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect program.
“[Multi AI’s] Tech Connect submission fits with our mission to automate planning, especially with my team who had experience with UAVs,” said Capt. Shaun M. Ryer, machine learning engineering lead at AFRL’s Information Directorate. The [Tech Connect] team acted as a guide to outline requirements of the SMEs but allowed us to interact when we had technical questions for the submitter.”
Multi AI submitted their system to the Air and Space Force Tech Connect program website. The program supports entities from industry, small business and academia gain access to relevant Air and Space Force subject matter experts, or SMEs, to provide opportunities to develop new technologies relevant to the U.S. military.
“AFRL provided valuable insights into our technical efforts and supported our Small Business Innovation Research Phase II application with a letter of recommendation,” said Alexander Nettekoven, PhD, Multi AI’s CEO. “We are in the process of successfully completing our Phase II and are in talks to move into Phase III.”
According to Nettekoven, Multi AI discovered the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website through word of mouth from AFWERX’s, the innovation arm of AFRL Phase I mentors.
Mission planning for UAVs and other aircraft in adversarial environments often relies on simple inputs, such as manual waypoints, from human operators. This can lead to a slowdown in mission planning for critical missions or updating strategies in dynamic situations. Multi AI’s system aims to streamline the process, decreasing reaction time.
“Our AI platform allows users of all skill levels to transform their high-level mission objectives into executable strategies that can be directly executed by to-be-deployed systems, including ground robots, drones, satellites and human personnel,” said Nettekoven.
According to Nettekoven, this approach will achieve the desired mission objectives while satisfying safety specifications. The system will provide an intuitive user interface that enables smooth function transition between operator and the mission planning AI. The program uses formal mathematical tools and decision-making algorithms to try to alleviate the complexities of decision-making for large-scale, multi-agent systems in adversarial environments quickly.
“Automated planning can significantly impact the response time of the Air Force,” said Ryer. “We often say ‘flexibility is the key to air power,’ but the time it takes to develop operational plans can chip away at [the Air Force’s] flexibility if plans take too long to formulate.”
The AI assisted planning software could be used to speed up the planning process and lead to greater flexibility. When dealing with a large number of units, autonomous planning can become a necessity as humans do not have the capability to monitor and control so many units at once, according to Ryer.
“[The system is] a huge opportunity for both parties as we develop crucial decision-making AI that can significantly boost the command-and-control capabilities of various Air Force stakeholders,” said Nettekoven.
Multi AI’s approach for large-scale multi-agent systems is intended to allow for the quick synthesis of complex plans without the limitations of human-based systems, according to Ryer.
Submitting the proposal though Air and Space Force Tech Connect was an easy and straightforward process. Within a few weeks, Multi AI received a valuable contact from AFRL, according to Nettekoven.
“The Tech Connect website was an easy- and straightforward-to-use tool that allowed us to make valuable connections into the Air Force,” said Nettekoven.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.
About Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect
The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website provides access to current, open opportunities, meet-up events, other Department of the Air Force science and technology enterprise connectors and a way for anyone to share an idea. The Tech Connect team, comprised of AFRL personnel, connects quality, relevant ideas/technologies with Department of the Air Force subject matter experts. The team will review ideas/inquiries, provide feedback on innovative ideas and establish a dialogue with potentially interested Air Force and Space Force programs. For more information, visit: https://airforcetechconnect.org/.