Drones and AI for meeting evolving airborne ISR customer expectations

How do you augment military Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) with Artificial Intelligence-driven drones? Before answering this, we should look at the need for such augmentation. Why is modernizing the defence operations and military a necessity?

India is the 2nd largest military spender in the world. It has the largest standing army in the world. Given the geopolitical set-up of the world and the region, India is often called upon to defend its sovereignty and borders against neighbouring interests. This successful ‘defence’ helps reinstate the peace, derived from ‘status-quo’.

It’s imperative that this defence status-quo be maintained, sometimes by checking insurgent and aggressive enemy behaviour, and other times by intensifying intelligence, counter-intelligence (gathering), surveillance and reconnaissance.

Restrictions and challenges for defence ISR operations 

Over the years, military-outlook has shifted more towards tech-application for faster analytics and decision-making. For example, China has recently pushed to actively reduce its total army size, focusing rather on modernizing its military with the latest technology.

This is the, now, the way forward, and India must leverage its indigenous tech pool for military advancements. Many battalions in India utilize soldiers as field scouts, CCTV cameras and motion sensors. However, these interventions have inherent restrictions and challenges.

  •       Restricted range, scope-of-view, perspective and portability (for survey and surveillance)
  •       Limited resources in terms of soldiers

o   Scouting assignments, especially in harsh weather conditions, put the soldiers at serious health risk

  •       Limited access to live-intelligence reports from central command centres (for battalions)
  •       Limited access to high-altitude surveillance
  •       Limited support for active-campaign reconnaissance

Artificial intelligence-driven drones for defence operations 

All these restrictions cannot just be ably overcome but also be superseded efficiently using artificial intelligence (AI)-driven drones. These drones add multiple high-altitude perspectives with high-resolution visual and thermal imaging. Multi-zoom capabilities and weather-agnostic stability mean that the drone can enhance all ISR operations.

ideaForge drones leverage AI for unmatched surveillance-support. Troops can easily deploy the drone, right from a backpack, anywhere, anytime. It adds a superior tactical ability wherein the troops can send out a drone ahead to scout out the way or the target location. The live-reconnaissance helps them safeguard their movement and/or increase the probability of campaign success.

There are multiple AI-factors which make ideaForge drones the ideal surveillance-partner for defence services.

Automated drone navigation 

Soldiers can set up these drones for anywhere, anytime. The drone, with the complete Ground Control Station (GCS), fits in a single backpack for easy portability. The drones can be deployed from any known or obscure point, even at punishingly high-altitudes.

After deployment, the drone can move on auto-pilot with the help of its in-built AI. It would move from waypoint (desired checkpoint) to waypoint, on its own. When instructed, the drone can conduct automated patrolling of the region, giving live (and secure) high-resolution visual/thermal feedback to home base.

Self-correcting flight paths – Auto-detection of obstacles and collision-avoidance 

But what about obstacles like cliffs, trees or man-made structures within the drone’s flightpath? The AI-driven auto-pilot detects these obstacles in real-time, calculates possible collision-probabilities based on altitude, trajectory and speed. Then the drone self-corrects its path to avoid this collision.

The auto-pilot and automated collision avoidance turn these drones into versatile surveillance ‘defence units’ in themselves. Such self-guiding intelligence helps reduce this workload of on-ground soldiers. These soldiers can then focus on critical strategy and decision-making.

Moving-target indicator 

One of the key elements of ISR is camouflaged movement-detection. For example, regions around Line of Control (LoC) or Line of Actual Control (LAC) always hold the risk of a stealthy enemy incursion. These enemy troops move their units and equipment using the lay-of-the-land as camouflage.

These high-flying drones, with their deep visual and thermal imaging, leverage AI to auto-identify any anomaly, on their own. This means that a drone on auto-pilot would immediately pick up any anomalous behaviour or movement, no matter how fine or expertly hidden.

Such superior and indigenous drone-tech help bolster ISR and counter-intelligence in real-time.

Moving-target tracking 

As indicated above, these drones are built for robust climates and tough conditions. They can conduct automated flights, self-correct their paths to avoid collision and even auto-detect any hidden movement or activity.

Now, as the drone shifts gears from surveillance to action, the drone can virtually mark any moving target and follow (track) the target’s movement. This target can be a person fleeing troops or a vehicle with an enemy weapon cache.

This AI-enabled and drone-led moving-target tracking is a big boon for active campaign reconnaissance. It boosts the overall success percentage and impact of these military campaigns.

Drone-driven defence ecosystem with AI-enabled decision-making 

Artificial intelligence is essential to turn the drones into active military units. These drone-units don’t just act as resource-multipliers, but also safeguard the lives of on-ground soldiers. Beyond the drone-units, the AI-enabled ISR efforts help create the big strategic picture for region-level of nation-level decision-making.

The military is keen to make every battalion drone-ready for greater situational awareness and faster reaction times. When the drone-gathered intelligence, from each battalion, is collaborated at a central command centre, the interplaying of all the information generates a complete and detailed map of live activities on the front. This information can mean the difference between winning a border face-off and failure to prevent enemy incursion.

ideaForge’s BlueFire Live! ensures that the drone’s live footage (along with other bundled elements like CCTV and motion-sensor feeds) is securely and immediately fed back to any certified receiving station in the world. This means that senior officers at the regional command centre or the Defence Minister in Delhi can view the live-surveillance feed at any time.

Such drone-tech application, through AI-enablement, gives the country an edge in all current and future defence decisions. These applications are being fast-tracked with a view to quickly modernize all military. This can be seen within the $130 billion prospective investment in military modernization, pledged in 2019, over the next 5-6 years (1).

And when such impactful AI-enabled drone-tech and manufactured 100% indigenously, it multiplies their benefits multifold. This has been central to ideaForge’s vision and mission for more than a decade and it would continue to define it’s the way forward for the future.


  1.     https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-to-spend-a-whopping-usd-130-billion-for-military-modernisation-in-next-5-7-years/articleshow/71053542.cms



October 2022

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