I/ITSEC NEWS: Air Force Envisions AI Automating Satellite Operations

By Mandy Mayfield

Rendering: Air Force

ORLANDO, Fla. — Air Force Space Command could utilize the commercial sector’s artificial intelligence capabilities to automate routine tasks and free up airmen for warfighting, an Air Force leader said Dec 3.

“I think some of those artificial intelligence, maybe machine learning, automation/innovation type of efforts can be applied to routine ... satellite maintenance tasks,” Col. Michael Todd, Air Force Space Command division chief A2 3-6, said during the annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida.

The automation would free up manpower in the “understaffed” command, allowing airmen to focus on tasks such as space warfighting, mission planning, tests and training, he said during the conference, hosted by the National Training and Simulation Association, an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association.

“In the DoD, we leverage a lot from the commercial sector — things that are already [proven] — let's start there,” he added.

However, Air Force Col. David Nyikos, deputy director of operations at Air Combat Command, sounded a note of caution, saying that artificial intelligence is still in its infancy.

“A lot of people like to talk about AI, but in reality it's more kind of somewhere between age zero and 12 months kind of learning rather than intelligence," Nyikos said. “We'll get there. We're just not there right now but we have to look at where it can develop and that is the thing that I would offer.”

When looking into AI, the service needs to zero in on what commercial companies are doing well, he said.

“There are things out there that are successful — that are tried and true — and those are more likely to be accepted in the military,” Nyikos said. “That is where I think we need to look to industry.”

Although the Defense Department should be watching the commercial sector for new AI developments, it could wait a bit longer on some capabilities, he added.

“What we do is dangerous. What we do is deadly,” he said “There is not a lot of room for error.”

Topics: Air Force News

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