New AI solution for analysing ISR data


Kachila and Hercules Dynamics, two Canadian based technology companies, have launched a new artificial intelligence solution to analyse and present data from navigation and information gathering sensors. This is being marketed as a cost effective solution for many African militaries and security agencies.

The artificial intelligence solution, Athena Core Engine (ACE), was launched at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in Pretoria.

The solution provides tools for the analysis and presentation of data from navigation and information gathering sensors. ACE can identify threats and objects of interest in real time from multiple types of sensors.

Kachila was established in Cape Town, where it continues to have a presence, but now operates out of Canada, and is in the process of setting up an office in Finland. It focuses on creating and marketing the intellectual property of technologies with military as well as civilian uses. Hercules Dynamics started off by providing software for driver improvement in the motorsports industry, but has since expanded into other sectors.

Cost effective

Hercules Dynamics is marketing Athena as a cost effective solution for many African militaries and security agencies. It allows operators to get more out of sensors and improves the accuracy of decisions on threats. The company says the acquisitions and operational costs of ACE are substantially below other similar systems. The software can be customised and scaled to the requirements of clients.

Shamendran Pillay, Vice President of Kachila, said the AI engine is well suited to countries which cannot afford top-end solutions and need to ensure substantial capability enhancements at a competitive price.

Athena allows navigation and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data to be drawn from multiple sensors and then analysed for key information to be presented to the human in the loop. A reduced workload for humans in the loop results in less fatigue and stress and allows them to operate with greater efficiency. This AI solution can deliver information to human operators that they might otherwise not be able to respond to in real time, the company said. Pillay said ACE sifts through data and allows the human operator to make faster and better decisions.

Athena allows access at a far lower price to technology that was once the preserve of the world’s most advanced militaries, said Pillay.

Rapidly learning AI

Athena is built around the transformer model that is currently driving many advances in machine learning. Transformer models, first developed by Google engineers five years ago, can learn far more rapidly as they rely on fewer data sets than traditional AI models. Instead of reliance on large data sets, transformer models rely more on context and relationships for analysis. Kaizer Poonawalla from Hercules Dynamics said ACE needs as little as a three-by-three pixel grid of data from a camera to identify an object. This he says allows the use of more affordable and lower weight cameras and sighting systems to be carried on platforms.

Another advantage of ACE for African users is that it does not require a large data downlink to operate. To prevent interception of data, the AI engine encrypts the data streams from the platform to the ground. It also has a component that performs a health usage and monitoring function on aircraft systems. Apart from defence and security use cases, Kachila said the system could also find a role in healthcare, infrastructure monitoring, and secure logistics.

As it falls under Canadian regulation, ACE is free from the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulatory regime on military and related technologies, and can therefore be exported to more markets.