The Army of tomorrow needs data collected today, and every new pairing of sensor and platform is another node in the ever-hungry maw of future artificial intelligence.

At the 2019 Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting, defense giant L3Harris Technologies announced an order from the Army for 65 electro-optical sensor suite units, specifically to mount on the service’s latest Shadow drones.

Configured to mount on the Tactical Unmanned Air Systems Shadow UAV (RQ-7Bv2), the contract is for 65 WESCAM MX-10D electro-optical, infrared and laser designator sensor suites. The sensor suite can geolocate and tag targets, on land or in the air. The sensor collects information for fighting at a distance, with an eye toward the threats posed by new vehicles or weapons in use across the globe.

Before receiving the contract, L3Harris delivered eight of the sensors as part of a testing program, which then led to the larger contract.

For the Army to take advantage of AI, it will first need to collect data on which it can train AI algorithms. While the Shadow was already a data-rich platform, every new iteration provides more information that cannot be collected anywhere but by military vehicles.

Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.

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