Anduril on Wednesday introduced an evolved version of its artificial intelligence-based Lattice open systems software platform that enables the large-scale integration and use of autonomous systems under human supervision across the mission cycle, including from planning and exercise to execution and post-operational analysis and lessons learned.
Lattice for Mission Autonomy is primed to help the U.S. military move beyond existing manpower-heavy warfighting models that use large, expensive, difficult-to-replace weapon systems and platforms to new models that make use of artificial intelligence, autonomous and low-cost sensor technologies to enable the widespread use of low-cost robotic platforms that are easier to replace and modernize.
The U.S. won’t be able to operate as effectively with its current warfighting models in battlespace that has become more heavily contested by the investments China has made in advanced anti-access, area denial capabilities, Christian Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer, said during a virtual media roundtable ahead of the company’s announcement.
The Air Force is planning to develop a large force of robotic aircraft, what it calls Collaborative Combat Aircraft, that would work as part of a team with fewer manned aircraft to conduct sensing and attack missions. These CCA’s would cost far less than an $85 million to $90 million F-35 fighter aircraft and be attritable, meaning the Air Force would be less concerned about them being shot down by an adversary than the more expensive manned aircraft and at the same time give mission planners and executors more options in a fight.
The technical aspect of getting these manned and large numbers of unmanned systems to communicate with one another is always difficult, but the types of missions and the actual military capabilities that this force construct can “bring to bear, that is an unknown question,” Brian Schimpf, Anduril’s CEO, said during the roundtable.
“Lattice is a software platform that is fundamentally focused on integrating sensors, robotic systems, and really kind of orchestrating across large networks of systems to perform missions on behalf of human beings,” Brose said. “This to us is essential, because we’re not going to be able to build this sort of larger and larger force on the back of lots of people and lots of money.”
In practical terms, the company is installing its software in its own and third-party platforms to achieve integration at scale. There are no black boxes or new computers involved, just what Schimpf describes as a light touch that is easy to install so that the Defense Department can deploy it broadly.
“We’ve designed this from the beginning to be as sort of lightweight and seamless integrate as possible,” Schimpf said. “So, I think in practice, it’s actually very trivial to integrate this into new aircraft, new vehicles, new boats, whatever you need, without having just a massive amount of, you know, ‘Hey, buy my literal hardware box to make this go.’”
Anduril has been developing its Lattice platform for a half-dozen or so years and for the past four years has been evolving the software to Lattice for Mission Autonomy. Earlier versions of Lattice are deployed in a number of applications, including on the company’s short-range Sentry autonomous surveillance towers used by the U.S. Border Patrol for border security and as part of a nearly $1 billion contract it won in early 2022 to act as a systems integrator for U.S. Special Operations Command’s counter-unmanned aircraft systems capabilities worldwide.
The software platform was also used during an international maritime exercise in the Middle East in February 2022 that involved manned and unmanned assets, including Anduril’s Ghost small unmanned aircraft system and third-party drones. The challenge then was tasking, maneuvering and operating the drones in space, Schimpf said.
Now, the company is extending the Lattice operating platform into more challenging missions.
Through training, experimentation, learning and improving is how Lattice for Mission Autonomy will rise to meet the future warfighting models that incorporate AI, autonomy and robotic systems, Schimpf said.
“We need to be thinking in thousands of systems and to be able to not just pilot them or engage in swarming tactics,” Brose said. “This is about actually how do you automate the mission from end-to-end with human supervision. And I think that’s the real frontier that the DoD is beginning to go after here.”
Company officials declined to discuss specific government customers they are working with and what milestones are ahead. Brose said Lattice for Mission Autonomy is being used “every day” and is part of the systems Anduril is delivering to its customer and will have more to say in the coming months.