Can robot dogs programmed with AI find hidden explosive devices?

Forty programmers demonstrated how AI-enabled robotic dogs could carry out potentially dangerous tasks that would otherwise be undertaken by Army bomb disposal experts at the Defence AI Centre (DAIC) sponsored Hackathon on 7 to 9 November

The hackers worked in five teams to exploit the AI capabilities of the robotic dogs, which are able to climb stairs, avoid obstacles and move over rough ground. During the first two days, the teams developed their strategies and finetuned their programming, before testing the dogs in an environment designed to recreate some of the hurdles faced in real life-threatening scenarios.   

On the final day, the teams demonstrated what they had achieved to members of 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) & Search Group, who are some of the British Army’s preeminent tactical and technical explosives experts able to disable explosive devices.  

Representatives from 29 EOD&S Group, the DAIC and DE&S judged the winners of five award categories: teamwork, collaboration, innovation, practical application, and endeavour and focus.  

The event was hosted by the Defence AI Centre, in partnership with the Expeditionary Robotics Centre of Expertise (ERCoE, part of DE&S and Team Defence Information (TDI)) at the BattleLab in Dorset. 

Cdre Rachel Singleton RN, Head DAIC, said:

"It has been hugely exciting to see Defence, industry and academia work together on an AI and robotics solution to a real use case, particularly one that aims to increase the safety of our people. Instigating and guiding this kind of collaborative innovation safely and responsibly is among the most important work we do at the DAIC."

Lt Col Chris Coles, of 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) & Search Group, said:

"It has been an absolute pleasure to see the talent and commitment to endeavour to create bomb disposal tools that do not require a person up close and personal. I have witnessed a number of things today that will absolutely facilitate research and development in the EOD&S space."

Wing Commander Paul Austin, of the DE&S Future Capabilities Group, said:

"At DE&S our passion is identifying ways we can harness technology to give our Armed Forces an edge. Part of that journey is working together with the Defence enterprise to drive improvement. This event and the enthusiasm displayed by the participants to solve a military-focused problem was a wonderful example of that."

About the DAIC

The Defence AI Centre was established as an outcome of the 2021 Integrated Review with the mandate to accelerate Defence’s ability to harness AI, adhering to our principles and values. The DAIC is a federated organisation, with coordination across Defence Digital, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Defence Science & Technology Laboratory.

Defence Equipment and Support