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Delivering deployable AI: A must-do for UK defence

Alex Cresswell, CEO and Chairman

Alex Cresswell, CEO and Chairman | Thales UK

3 min read Partner content

To take meaningful advantage of AI in the defence environment, solutions must be deployable, relevant to the operational environment, and developed in partnership with the user community

Since its inception, Thales has built a well-established reputation for developing pioneering technology solutions. Starting as a leading manufacturer of telegraph equipment in the late 19th century, Thales has evolved over time by maintaining its forefront position in cutting-edge technological advancement and delivering critical systems for our customers in the most challenging environments.

In the UK this has been exemplified in our history, pioneering radar technology during World War II, which delivered significant military efficiency and security enhancement and has been continuously advanced to introduce innovations in 3D surveillance, air traffic management, and ground-based military radar; alongside this Thales in Glasgow began its early days as a pioneering firm in optical engineering that developed periscope technology, a key component in submarine operations. In a partnership with the Royal Navy that has lasted over a century, we have built on this technology to create sophisticated optronic mast systems replacing traditional periscopes and enhancing naval surveillance and targeting capabilities.

Continuing on our journey of innovation, we’re exploring the significant opportunity that artificial intelligence and digital security deliver in supporting our customers as they face the challenges of the future. Now part of everyone’s daily lives, AI is no longer a far-out concept but grounded in reality.

But unlike some of the more “pure” AI companies that you might associate more readily with the subject, Thales is not only working at the cutting edge of technology but critically, also delivering the application of those technologies in the most challenging environments- from the bottom of the ocean to the depths of space.

In order to take meaningful advantage of AI in the defence environment, solutions must be deployable, relevant to the operational environment and developed in partnership with the user community.

Thales’ decades of domain knowledge in delivering complex, certified systems to the UK MoD —with deep understanding of issues like target phenomenology, platform integration and operational issues, user needs and the human-machine relationship — means that we understand the constraints and complexities associated with deployable AI. 

And we’re already doing it. Thales has delivered orders of magnitude productivity gains through the application of AI on systems that were already highly capable.

Thales and the MOD have jointly developed a capability that provides a Single Source of Truth for Mission Support Data. An advanced technological solution built to enhance operational efficiency and safety, this central collation of data provides a unique platform to rapidly exploit developments in AI to get capability to front line users, currently deployed with front line units.

Moreover, Thales and the UK defence and security industry, work within robust ethical standards that are among the highest found anywhere in the world. This understanding has informed our approach to AI.

Thales’ TrUE AI (Transparent, Understandable, Ethical AI) is a unique approach to implementing AI that emphasizes transparent use, easy comprehensibility, and strong ethical guidelines. Our AI systems do not replace humans but enhance and complement the human decision-making processes. Combined with our Digital Ethical charter, we believe that the defence industry can and should lead from the front when it comes to a responsible approach to what could be the most significant technological development in defence and security for a generation.

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