Artificial intelligence weaponry successfully trialled on mock urban battlefield

Victoria Ward
Soldiers trialing UK-created artificial intelligence technology  - PA

A cutting edge weapon that uses artificial intelligence to scan the battlefield for enemy movements has been successfully tested for the first time.

The system, that was developed by British experts, uses space age technology to monitor and track opposing forces in built up areas.

It can then rapidly flag dangers to soldiers, giving them an “edge” in a warzone, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The technology, developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and UK industry partners, known as SAPIENT,  also reduces human error and frees up other soldiers who currently have to man live CCTV-type feeds to monitor enemy movement, it is claimed.

It was tested by Canadian soldiers on a mock urban battlefield in Montreal alongside a range of experimental military technology created by other nations, including robotic exoskeleton suits, night vision, and surveillance systems.

Stuart Andrew, the defence minister, said: "This British system can act as autonomous eyes in the urban battlefield.

Soldiers trialing UK-created artificial intelligence technology  Credit: Ministry of Defence/PA

"This technology can scan streets for enemy movements so troops can be ready for combat with quicker, more reliable information on attackers hiding around the corner.

"Investing millions in advanced technology like this will give us the edge in future battles."

The quest for dominance on the battlefield has become a race to develop the most advanced electronics and computing with debates rife over the use of killer military robots.

General Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the Army, spoke earlier this year of a "darkening geopolitical picture" and said warfare was moving into areas such as cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence and autonomous technology.

"We need a more proactive, threat-based approach to our capability planning, including placing big bets on those technologies that we judge may offer exponential advantage because, given the pace of the race, to fall behind today is to cede an almost unquantifiable advantage from which it might be impossible to recover,” he said.

In November, the Army is expected to start testing autonomous aircraft and vehicles for delivering supplies to frontline forces.

It has also unveiled a new 'social media' app which allows soldiers to win wars using their mobile phones.

The Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool was hailed a "game changer" by a senior Army officer after trials during the recent US-led Exercise Sabre Strike involving 18,000 troops and 19 countries across Eastern Europe.

Last week, it emerged that the US army was investing in augmented reality goggles to help its soldiers in combat.

Documents revealed that it had held meetings with London gaming start-up Improbable, as well as US giants Magic Leap and Microsoft, about a contract to develop the technology for the frontline.

The three-week SAPIENT trial was the latest in the series of Contested Urban Environment experiments which sees soldiers from the Five Eyes allied nations of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and US testing the latest military technology.

The UK is set to host a similar exercise in 2020, the MoD said.