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Pentagon creating ‘robot’ language so drones can communicate without humans

Drones (US Army/Released)
September 21, 2023

The Pentagon is currently spending millions of dollars on the development of a common language that would allow various drones to communicate with one another to execute military objectives with limited human involvement.

According to Forbes, as artificial intelligence advancements propel the military’s desire to have autonomous drones conduct operations with limited human involvement, Pentagon scientists are currently working to solve the issue of drones produced by multiple manufacturers coordinating with one another during military exercises.

Forbes noted that Pentagon scientists are attempting to create a network of drones that will allow the drones to operate together without external connectivity. However, while a drone network would alleviate some of the challenges in developing an autonomous drone force, the Pentagon also needs to develop a common language that would allow each of the drones to easily communicate with one another.

One way the Pentagon is doing this is through funding contracts for a program called “Droidish: Collaborative Autonomous Vehicle Language” with Unmanned Experts Inc.

According to one of the government’s contracts with Unmanned Experts, “The deployment of collaborative autonomous munitions & unmanned systems is the next phase of the DoD’s entry into the Information Age with programs such as Golden Horde, a USAF Vanguard program, working to integrate software-defined datalink radios and collaborative capabilities into legacy weapons systems.”

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The contract explains that Droidish is being developed to “integrate directly” into the DoD’s program by creating a “standardized vehicular ad-hoc network language.”

“It lets R2D2 talk to C3P0,” Keven Gambold, CEO of Unmanned Experts, told Forbes.

Since 2020, Gambold, in conjunction with the University of North Texas, has been working on ways to help drones coordinate with one another, receiving more than $7 million in contracts with the U.S. Air Force.

Forbes reported that one experiment funded by the Air Force demonstrated the ability of drones to fly close to one another without human oversight, allowing the drones to determine how to navigate through difficult scenarios.

“It sounds relatively simple,” Gambold said. “But it took the most unfeasible amount of code to get it to actually work.”

Although the Droidish program is being developed for “machine-to-machine discussion,” Forbes noted that human oversight is currently needed in order to increase the vocabulary of Droidish in the event of increasingly complicated tasks or exercises.

While Gambold indicated his hope that Droidish could eventually expand to allow communication between any vehicles, his team is currently forced to create new “words” in the Droidish language in response to various simulations between drones.

According to Forbes, Droidish is scheduled for an upcoming October test in Colorado. The experiment will involve aircraft using Droidish to collectively determine which military tactics to use in a variety of situations.