The UK’s Royal Navy is partnering with Palmer Luckey’s defense technology firm Anduril Industries as part of a larger initiative to modernize the force, according to Naval Technology.
Announced earlier this year, the Royal Navy is investing £75 million (about $95 million) in an effort to introduce a pair of autonomous mine-hunting vessels, and to set up a military-industrial accelerator called NavyX. According to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, the initiative is designed to “allow the Royal Navy to rapidly harness dynamic, cutting-edge equipment at speed,” and to “ensure they can outpace adversaries both on the water and the sea floor.” The Ministry of Defence says that by fielding autonomous vehicles, they can put fewer sailors in danger.
The initiative also includes the Royal Marines, and the partnership with Anduril Industries is designed to help with that modernization effort. According to Royal Navy chief technology officer Colonel Dan Cheeseman, the company is part of the accelerator program, and has partnered “with 3 Commando Brigade and they are now part of a busy exercise and deployment schedule. ”
Luckey famously developed the Oculus Rift, and after being ousted from Facebook, he pivoted to the defense and surveillance industry, developing sensors and software for use at the US border or near military bases. That software, called Lattice, uses a combination of artificial intelligence, cameras, LIDAR, and infrared sensors to identify people from other background objects. The system has reportedly been responsible for helping the border patrol catch “dozens of people” crossing the border as of last year. The company has also earned a contract with the Pentagon’s controversial Project Maven AI program.
It seems as though Lattice’s applications go beyond surveillance. Naval Technology describes the system as being able to “deliver accurate, real-time information to troops on the ground,” and the Navy touts the system’s ability to bring all of the system’s devices into one network that’s easily accessible to soldiers and Marines. It also points to tests that the Royal Marines conducted last month that involved Marines using tablets to take in information from drones and GPS systems, as well as using autonomous boats for the first time.