Today’s cadet AI research leads to tomorrow’s innovation
Cadet 1st Class Samuel Brennen demonstrates brain-computer interface technology at the U.S. Air Force Academy Department of Computer and Cyber Sciences 28, 2023. (US Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)
By Randy Roughton
U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications
US AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colorado.- It sounds like something straight out of the latest Hollywood blockbuster: aviators controlling drones with their minds.
But rather than being pure science fiction, US Air Force Academy Department of Computer and Cyber Sciences the cadets strive to make it a scientific fact.
Synthetic research in artificial intelligence
Cadet 1st Class Kayleb Klapp is just one of several cadets working on several capstone projects with the goal of harnessing artificial intelligence. In this case, it’s “interpreting the electroencephalography result into a usable result,” Klapp said.
Basically use the power of thought to control a drone.
Klapp, a member of Cadet Squadron 37 and a computer science major with a specialization in artificial intelligence, began his work in AI with the Autonomous Systems Integration course. This was followed by a summer research program with the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York. He hopes to continue his work on AI in his graduate studies.
“I wasn’t really sure what would come of my cadet career when I arrived, but there were a lot of opportunities,” Klapp said. “Combined with my capstone (research), these experiences made me very comfortable working on and developing AI.”
Pictured is the Ghost Robotics Vision 60 robot from the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Department of Computer and Cyberscience, Sept. 28, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)
Training future leaders through AI and cyberinnovation
The Department of Computer and Cyber Sciences’ main areas of AI work involve scalp-based brain-computer interface technology, neural networks and human-robot interactions, said Assistant Professor Dr. Dr. Chad Mello.
The faculty facilitates cadet skills with “empowered leadership through cyber resilience and artificial intelligence innovation,” Mello said. “We are shaping tomorrow’s leaders in cyber resilience and AI innovation. »
Cadets like Klapp work with scalp-based computer interfaces to capture useful brain waves externally through what are called “dry electrodes,” Mello said. Cadets experiment with hands-on methods for using non-invasive brain-computer interfaces to enable closer integration with humans, robotic tools and technologies.
“We are on the cusp of a breakthrough where these devices can intuitively discern human intent and respond to new environments in a way similar to what humans would do when they first encounter them,” Mello said.
Capstone projects like the one Klapp is working on are led by cadets with help from faculty and are at the heart of the department’s groundbreaking work in AI.
“(The cadets) are actively helping to shape the practical side of AI,” Mello said. “Their work can offer insights and solutions to defense and aerospace challenges. As emerging leaders, Air Force cadets connect current achievements in AI to future possibilities.
Capstone projects all have real-world applications and impacts, and the program has evolved to keep pace with current needs and technological advances. This includes an expanded curriculum on modern programming languages and techniques, technology stacks, AI and machine learning, and cybersecurity.
Additionally, cadets have more engaging capstone research options on engineering topics than ever before, Mello said.
Rapid transformation of AI technologies
“Artificial intelligence technologies are already transforming geopolitical competition and their importance will only grow in the coming decades,” said Col. Judson Dressler, chief of the Department of Cybersecurity and Informatics. “Our responsibility at (the Academy) is to ensure that cadets understand its capabilities, their impact on military force and deterrence, and the ethical and legal considerations under the Law of Armed Conflict and the U.S. Constitution.” We want them to be prepared for the future nature of warfare, which is why we maintain our competitive advantage now that technical transformation is upon us.
Deep neural networks
Cadets are also working on using AI and neural networks. Deep neural networks are indispensable in computer science and almost every other field of science for “making sense of big data,” Mello said. Scientists use these networks to detect patterns in data that humans cannot see or understand.
“By combining these networks into even larger and more complex networks, we are able to perform complex tasks in complex environments in ways that we only dreamed of 10 years ago,” Mello said.
Cadet 1st Class Leonardo Camacho applies deep learning to big data to detect, predict and classify astronomical events at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Computer and Cyber Sciences Department, Sept. 28 2023. (US Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)
See photos of the Department of Computer Science and Cyber Sciences AI on Flickr.