The use of unmanned aerial systems or drones, also within Belgian Defence, is exploding in recent years. This poses challenges related to the training of the personnel able to operate these tools. It is the vision that in the future, defence organisations will evolve to a situation where any soldier is a drone operator and the drone becomes just one of the many tools in the toolkit of the individual soldier. However, in order to arrive to such a situation, there are still multiple obstacles to be tackled. One major problem is that both the control and the data interpretation of current advanced military drones are much too complicated to be handled by personnel that has not received an extensive training, whilst it is impossible (or not feasible) to organize such a training for each and every soldier. A solution to this problem would be the augmented use of autonomous capabilities, both for the vehicle control and for the data interpretation aspect.
The global objective of this study is to render the use of drones easier for the operator. This is to be achieved through the development of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, assisting the human operator in controlling the drone and in processing the sensor data, thereby alleviating the need for extensive operator training.
Specific objectives of this study are to:
- Develop AI tools, allowing for safe and human-friendly control and navigation of drones. It is specifically *not* the goal to develop totally autonomous capabilities, but to develop assistive tools & algorithms that enable
– a novice pilot to operate a drone safely and effectively
– an expert pilot to operate multiple drones from a distance.
- Develop AI tools, assisting drone operators with semi-automated real-time data processing. The main goal here is to take the cognitive load on the human operator away from assessing large data streams towards assessing anomalies that have been detected automatically