AI-SEARCH TO TRANSFORM SEARCH & RESCUE

This story starts with a challenge - AIRCDRE Darren Goldie challenged Jericho to find a way of using a detector on an aircraft to enhance Search and Rescue (SAR). While SAR is a critical role, it has largely been done in the same way for a hundred years – using unaided visual search to find objects in the water. 

WGCDR Michael Gan, Plan Jericho’s AI lead said “Jericho saw the opportunity to use AI to augment and enhance SAR. The idea is to train a machine learning algorithm and AI sensors to complement existing visual search techniques”, said WGCDR Gan.

“Our vision is to give any aircraft and other Defence platforms, including UAS, a low cost improvised SAR capability”. 

“Jericho enlisted the help of budding AI guru, LEUT Harry Hubbert, Warfare Innovation Navy Branch.  We gave Harry a challenge – find an orange hull, in a large body of water, using AI, and do it in a month.  Harry developed the algorithms in his own time within two weeks. 

“We needed to test the algorithm and gather data to further train the AI. 35SQN gave fantastic support and flew the AI-Search team and sensors in a C-27J sortie over the Tamar River in Tasmania capturing a range of life rafts, life boats and safety equipment. 

“The first test flight worked brilliantly. It will be the first in a series to develop and evaluate the proof of concept,” said WGCDR Gan.

AI-Search is a Plan Jericho collaboration with the Warfare Innovation Navy Branch, Air Mobility Group’s 35SQN and the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College. More partners, including DST, have been engaged to contribute to future project phases.

LEUT Harry Hubbert, Warfare Innovation Navy Branch said “It felt pretty amazing to be up in the C-27J gathering the data to train the algorithms that I had developed that week. There is a lot of discussion about AI in Defence – but the sheer processing power of machine learning applied to SAR has the potential to save lives and transform SAR. 

GPCAPT Jerome Reid, Director Plan Jericho said “This is how we need to go after advanced capability for Defence; empower our bright sparks, connect them with mentors and resources, get out of their way and let the magic happen”.

“Jericho is running EDGY Air Force, a new Jericho acceleration program, to bring out the talents of our people.”

This story started with a challenge and it ends with a challenge. Join EDGY Air Force and turn your game-changing idea into a joint force edge, submit your idea to plan.jericho [at] defence.gov.au or visit www.airforce.gov.au/EDGY.  Up to $5M in ‘Edge Bounties’ are available for units and squadrons in FY19/20. The next EDGY Air Force Ignite will be held at East Sale on 16 & 17 October.