The Armed forces are slowly but steadily making progress and embarking on a new era of technological warfare

by Sreejani Bhattacharyya

Just a few days back, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is adding new chapters such as information technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics in technological warfare. He added that DRDO is working to prevent various present and upcoming dangers in a very futuristic and first-of-its-kind approach. Last year, Ajay Kumar from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told the media that it will be required by the Armed forces to migrate to 5G networks soon to make efficient use of unmanned vehicles and artificial intelligence.

New-age technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, machine learning, 5G, and quantum computing have now penetrated all major sectors. If properly used, they can be immensely powerful in transforming how these sectors perform. These technologies can completely transform the Indian defence capabilities. The Armed forces are slowly but steadily making progress and embarking on a new era of technological warfare.

Already Integrating New-Age Technologies

India does not want to fall behind other nations when it comes to embracing new-age technologies. It has already established the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR). It is a DRDO lab that works in the area of R&D in AI, robotics, information and communication security. It has also set up a project called Energy Harvesting Based Infrared Sensor Network for Automated Human Intrusion Detection (EYESIRa) based on IoT mechanisms partially.

Just a month ago, the Indian Army established the Quantum Lab at Military College of Telecommunication with support from National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). At the same institution, it set up the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centre with support from industry and academia.

Last year, at the e-symposium event organised by SAMDeS along with the FICCI, RKS Bhaduria, IAF Chief Marshal, mentioned IAF’s interest in the integration of the AI concepts for combat operations in the future.

How To Go Ahead

In order to bring about a change in how the systems work for the Armed forces in the country, various steps can be taken. Some are:

Effective Use of Big Data With A Strong Focus On Security

With enormous amounts of data being generated, the right advanced tools in analytics and algorithms can help the Armed forces with critical information. This information can be used to effectively make decisions for national safety and security—even vital predictions can be made from sensitive information. The Armed forces have to work on an organised, clear-cut plan on how to go about with the management and analysis of the data while making sure that nation-sensitive information remains protected.

Unmanned Warfare Mechanisms

Autonomous and unmanned weapon systems used in surface, aerial and underwater warfare utilise AI. They can differentiate and destroy potential enemy spots and targets, and these also have the capability to accumulate data and can act as centres of data collection and analysis, which can be used in military decision making.

Involving Private Players

Effective participation from the private sector in building software, products and algorithms for the Armed forces can foster innovation and push India forward in the race to deploy cutting-edge tech. Indian start-ups are known globally for raising the standards of innovation, and it will be wise of the Armed forces to utilise this potential of the private players of the country. In the last few years, we have witnessed an active interest among private players to cater to the needs of the Armed forces too.

Last year, conversational AI start-up, launched an integrated speech recognition based solution for use in the Armed forces. It is an end-to-end voice translation system that uses automatic speech recognition (ASR), machine translation and speech-to-text to convert Mandarin to English.

Torus Robotics, a Chennai-based start-up, is developing Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) for the Indian Army. These vehicles can be operated as robots from a safe distance.

IdeaForge Technology, formed by alumni of IIT-Bombay, has signed a Rs 130-crore deal with the Indian Army to make drones. It will provide the Indian Army with an “undisclosed quantity of a high-altitude variant of ideaForge’s Switch UAV”, the company said.

The MoD has established iDEX – to promote development in defence and aerospace. It aims to engage innovators and entrepreneurs to bring out technologically advanced solutions that will modernise the Indian military.

Collaboration With Academia

IITs, NITs, IISc, and TIFR are home to some of the best minds that bring out innovations with the potential to revolutionise the technological landscape. The Armed forces have to tap into them to bring out cutting-edge products from the labs to real-world situations. A collaborative effort between the Armed forces, industry and academia is vital for integrating new capabilities in the systems.