Advancing Defense Tech Through Commercial Practices and Collaboration

Mar 22, 2024

Technology development requires partnerships. The accomplishments of a diverse team always outpace those of the individual – this is especially true in defense. 

Time and time again, critical breakthroughs result from cooperation between the public and private sector. Often, the most crucial advances start in the commercial realm. The same principles that work in commercial technology development can be applied to the defense sector and strengthened through collaboration between industry, the Department of Defense, and allied militaries. 

Applying Commercial Best Practices to Defense Tech

Synthetic data demonstrates how a commercial use case translates to the defense sector. Even when real data is lacking and live testing becomes prohibitively expensive, synthetic options empower users to improve the robustness of their machine learning, or ML, models. A team of perception engineers can boost performance against rare object classes by training with synthetic data. 

These synthetic data practices arose from commercial use cases. Rather than tanks and planes, for passenger vehicle autonomy, the rare object class was bicycles. Live drive logs simply lacked enough data on bicycles. By working through various synthetic data training techniques, Applied Intuition developed a number of best practices for AI/ML improvement.

Figure 1: Cyclists are often underrepresented in real-world datasets. This makes it difficult for a perception model trained only on real-world data to detect cyclists. 

This led to success for our defense customers, such as our aided target recognition (AiTR) work with the U.S. Air Force. By generating high-fidelity synthetic data to train an algorithm design to identify and track adversary systems, Applied Intuition Defense reduces the reliance on real-world testing.

Real-world data doesn’t scale. Mature programs spend millions on data collection. Key edge cases may be too risky to perform live. Too much time is required to observe each edge case. By contrast, synthetic data offers low-cost advantages compared to data collection programs along with complete control over data design. These costs extend to time as well. Data is available in days rather than months, leading to faster updates.

An increased use of synthetic data results in target recognition capabilities occurring at a faster rate and a lower cost. An August 2023 Gartner survey predicted that in 2024 60% of data for artificial intelligence will “be synthetic to simulate reality, future scenarios and derisk AI, up from 1% in 2021.”

Last summer, Adm. John Aquilino plugged in emerging technologies to stand up a new directorate within the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to advance key programs at a much faster pace than ever before, Breaking Defense reported. Streamlining partnerships with private industry will further accelerate this effort. The rapid adoption of commercially developed technology presents a new combat advantage.

These concepts arise from examples in other regional hotspots. Much has been written about the testbed provided by the conflict in Ukraine. Among autonomous systems employed by both sides, the greatest impact is from unmanned aerial systems, or UASs, per an HDAIC report. Russia and Ukraine use various military UASs, which are hardened physically, to the rigors of combat, and electronically. 

A significant combat multiplier is the emergence of commercial UAS. Ukraine has successfully used commercial drones to target Russian armored vehicles, hardened locations, and command and control points.

Figure 2: A drone ascending

These concepts will soon expand to the Indo-Pacific. In both theaters, the adversary consistently fields new platforms. The capability for a targeting system to classify rare object classes offers a tremendous advantage. Warfighters will continue to benefit from the adoption of cutting-edge systems to conduct various missions. During a late 2023 AUKUS exercise, the HMS Tamar, which is on a 5-year deployment to the Indo-Pacific, “used a combination of divers and autonomous underwater vehicles to conduct mine countermeasure operations, and monitor critical infrastructure, including pipelines and communication cables,” Seapower Magazine reported.

Figure 3: A drone flies across terrain


This collaboration model is ready for expansion, including collaboration with allied militaries and industry partners. Massive savings mean the taxpayer wins. Accelerated insertion of cutting-edge technologies means the soldier wins. Contact us to learn how Applied Intuition Defense applies commercial best practices to advance defense technology development. 

Applied Intuition Defense’s approach

At Applied Intuition Defense, we build best-in-class digital engineering tools for leading autonomy programs - from the world’s largest automotive manufacturers (OEMs) to the Department of Defense. Contact us to learn more about how we can accelerate your team.