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By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

New sensing and computer-processing technologies are expected to generate unprecedented breakthroughs for the mine-hunting Fire Scout Navy drone seeking to find enemy mines, by organizing incoming sensor information and ensuring accurate identification with new levels of speed.

The Navy is prototyping and preparing new tests of its “pod” which attaches underneath the Fire Scout drone to not only help find mines by analyzing returns from EO/IR cameras, but also network details related to the mine countermeasures effort in real-time to human decision-makers.

Single System Multi-Mission Airborne Mine Detection (SMAMD)

The Navy’s The Single System Multi-Mission Airborne Mine Detection (SMAMD) program uses an “airborne sensor suite that will have the ability to have real-time onboard processing coupled with low false alarm rates will enable the warfighter to respond swiftly to detected threats,” a write up from NAVAIR, Naval Air Systems Command states.

Faster processing at the point of collection is an extremely impactful technological breakthrough for mine-hunting missions and ISR overall as, instead of needing to return and manually upload or present threat information for analysis, AI-enabled computer data processing can take place at the point of collection to expedite the ISR and decision-making progress exponentially.

“Current MCM technologies require post-mission analysis that lengthens the threat detection and mitigation timeline,” the Navy essay writes. Interestingly, the Navy report explains that the SMAMD, once operational, will be the first MCM flown from the Fire Scout and also be the largest payload it has carried.

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MQ-8C Fire Scout

MQ-8C Fire Scout

Data processing at the point of collection massively improves identification and information transfer operations and also likely helps facilitate multi-domain connectivity. Perhaps mine-hunting Fire Scouts could quickly send mine-field specifics to surface ships, helicopters and drones capable of responding and destroying mines. It would not be surprising if the onboard computer processing were AI enabled. 

In this case, detailed incoming sensor data could be gathered, organized and processed so that moments of relevance to human decision-makers were identified and instantly transmitted. 

This kind of technological application can give ship commanders faster awareness about mine threats, offering a larger time window with which to respond. AI-enabled processing can also assess potential countermeasures for a particular circumstance based on prior history, mine type and location identification and a host of other relevant variables. “The SMAMD will prove that a podded MCM system can operate as intended on the MQ-8C without causing adverse effects to the UAV or significantly diminishing time on station,” the Navy report says.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization