U.S., U.K. team up to conquer data hurdles


Sensors allow military forces to see, hear and understand their battlefield environment by producing data related to enemy activities, capabilities and location. A key challenge is how to rapidly process the massive amounts of data into usable information.

The United States and United Kingdom recently announced a jointly funded project to automatically process data obtained from sensors and optimize that information for mission success. The project is led by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, CCDC-Atlantic, and the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. It represents a new concept for such research projects between the nations, the U.S. Army reported on its website.

The project will include various aspects of processing data and information from networks of heterogeneous sensors, particularly autonomous sensors, operating without a centralized computing node. The research will address three questions: how to manage task and resource allocation for autonomous sensors; how to maintain computational effectiveness of the network of sensors in an environment with many simultaneous targets; and how to characterize and quantify uncertainties in sensor-derived estimates. (Pictured: A U.S. Army Soldier operates a Black Hornet unmanned aerial system. The display screen, which is slightly larger than a smartphone and attached to his vest, provides situational awareness.) The research team received a U.S. $1.2 million grant over three years. The science and technology workforce from both governments were involved with the call for proposals, which encouraged “development of mathematical analysis and algorithms, rather than hardware.” 

“Emerging technologies such as cheap, lightweight uncrewed aerial vehicles provoke a need for research into information processing of data derived from multiple autonomous sensors,” said Alasdair Hunter, the lead researcher from the U.K. “In the military context, sensors have to work in a potentially contested environment, so networks of sensors are required to be resilient against attack and failure of individual sensors and communication links. This project addresses the challenges arising from the design of resilient networks by developing novel, fundamental information processing algorithms.”