In an exciting partnership, Quantum Systems, Airbus Defence and Space, and Spleenlab have joined forces for a research initiative focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and swarming technology in tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The project, known as KITU 2 (Künstliche Intelligenz für taktische UAS; Artificial Intelligence for tactical UAS), has received funding from the German Ministry of Defence and has been awarded by the Planning Office of the German Armed Forces.
The primary objective of KITU 2 is to demonstrate and analyze the AI building blocks necessary for the successful implementation of swarms of tactical UAS in real-world scenarios. This research endeavor aims to enhance the effectiveness of tactical UAS through the utilization of advanced AI algorithms and techniques. Each company brings its unique strengths to the partnership, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of the potential applications of AI and swarming in the field of UAS.
Airbus Defence and Space, renowned for its expertise in defense and space systems, will contribute trusted swarming algorithms, simulation environments, and experimental hardware to the project. Additionally, the company will provide the essential AI building blocks required for the successful operation of tactical UAS swarms.
Quantum Systems, with its battle-proven Vector 2-in-1 tactical aerial reconnaissance platform, will showcase its AI edge-computing capabilities. The Vector platform is a versatile solution that can be deployed as either a fixed-wing eVTOL Vector or a multicopter Scorpion UAS, enabling heterogenous swarms. Quantum Systems is also actively developing a family of systems, set to enter the market in 2024 and 2025, which will offer customers a seamless layered approach in terms of range, flight time, and payload capabilities.
Spleenlab, specialists in AI edge software, will contribute its knowledge in object recognition and robust navigation methods in communication-denied environments. The company is set to enhance the research initiative and support the development of advanced AI algorithms for swarming UAS.
The outcomes of the KITU 2 program are expected to benefit additional programs involving small unmanned aircraft vehicles. Specifically, the joint Main Ground Combat Systems (MGCS) program between France and Germany, which has been ongoing since 2018, aims to integrate next-generation technology and multiple platforms to enhance the defensive and offensive capabilities of main battle tanks on the battlefield. The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, involving France, Germany, and Spain, is developing a system comprising manned new generation fighters, unmanned aircraft, and advanced weapons and communications systems.
Both the MGCS and FCAS programs have a shared goal of implementing multi-platform and multi-vehicle swarming capabilities, which aligns with the objectives of the KITU 2 program. Swarming technology allows for force multiplication by enabling the control of multiple UASs with a reduced ground or air crew. Recent studies from the ongoing war in Ukraine have highlighted the potential benefits of deploying multiple smaller and lower-cost UASs for effective aerial reconnaissance. These smaller UASs can cover larger areas simultaneously and offer better resilience against potential losses.
The collaboration between Quantum Systems, Airbus Defence and Space, and Spleenlab represents a significant step forward in the research and development of AI and swarming technologies for tactical UAS. By leveraging the expertise of each company and their combined resources, the partners aim to unlock new possibilities in the field of unmanned aerial systems, ultimately enhancing the capabilities and effectiveness of military operations.