The Defense Innovation Unit — the Department of Defense’s emerging technology accelerator — is working on several projects aimed at improving national security by contracting with commercial providers:

  • According to the DIU annual report for 2018, using AI to predict maintenance on aircraft and vehicles could save DoD $3 billion to $5 billion annually. DIU determined maintenance on aircraft and vehicles was often done too early, removing parts that still had a working life ahead of schedule, so, using AI, DIU analysts found they could predict 28 percent of unscheduled maintenance on the E-3 Sentry across six subsystems and 32 percent of on the C-5 Galaxy across 10 subsystems.
  • DIU found deficiencies in the commercial drone industry, resulting in a lack of smaller options for war fighters. Through partnership with the Army’s Program Executive Office Aviation, it was able to build an inexpensive, rucksack-portable VTOL drone fit for short-range reconnaissance, according to the report.
  • DIU launched a project, VOLTRON, to discover vulnerabilities in DoD software. This follows a 2018 Government Accountability Office report that found $1.66 trillion work of weapons systems at risk for cyberattack. Using this automated detection and remediation system, DIU will be able to provide DoD software with more secure networks.
  • DIU is also working to secure networks on the battlefield through its Fully Networked Command, Communications & Control Nodes, or FNC3N, project. This project wants to create wearable technology that will provide data to users in a secure interconnected tactical network, according to the report.
  • Using commercial satellite images, DIU is filling gaps in space-based reconnaissance. The peactime indications and warning project has completed the launch of the first commercial, small synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite. The use of commercial data will allow the department to easily share the data it receives with allies and partners because it is unclassified.

In August 2018 DIU was solidified within the Defense Department when “experimental” was removed from the office’s original name, according to the report. It also received a large funding increase, from $84 million in 2017 to $354 million in 2018.

Kelsey Reichmann is a general assignment editorial fellow supporting Defense News, Fifth Domain, C4ISRNET and Federal Times. She attended California State University.

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