The Future of Defence Technology


5 technologies that could have the biggest impact on the defence industry in the next 5 years

Technology is evolving at an ever-increasing rate. The defence sector will always follow this trend, leveraging technology advancements to remain at the cutting edge.

A recent report from the UK Government details 5 technologies that could have the biggest impact on the defence industry in the coming years, if not already. The report included the 5 key areas listed below:

1) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. Machine Learning (ML) is the ability of computer systems to learn without being explicitly programmed.

These three distinct but related technologies exploit computer processing, algorithm development, data gathering and storage, and electronic connectivity, and are expected to enable radical transformation across almost every area of Defence activity.

They can be used to make assessments and provide recommendations to support human decision making and activity, or integrated into physical or virtual systems that independently perform actions under meaningful human oversight.

They are therefore critical enabling technologies for autonomous systems and build confidence and understanding at all levels that AI systems may change responses as they learn.

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2) Autonomous Systems and Robotics

Autonomous systems exploit sensors and other data sources to gather information on their environment, use advanced algorithms and Artificial Intelligence to process and understand it, and make decisions about how to respond, and perform tasks – whether physical or virtual – to achieve assigned goals.

Robotic systems are automated machines that carry out complicated actions independently of, or in conjunction with, humans.

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3) Advanced Sensors

A sensor detects a physical phenomenon such as an electrical field, vibration or particle, and generates a response, such as the transmission of digital information or a change in colour to represent a detected chemical.

Data from sensors, appropriately stored and analysed, builds our understanding of the operating environment, identifies items within it, and combines to provide situational awareness. Sensing therefore informs Defence’s decisions at all levels.

Sensing technologies are diverse and include: electromagnetic sensing (e.g. electro-optic, infra-red, radar and electronic surveillance); gravity sensing; acoustic sensing; position navigation and timing (PTN); chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN); explosive sensing; quantum sensing; and sensor fusion.

Sensors are deployed on a range of platforms operating in a variety of environments – and need to overcome congestion and clutter, detect difficult (including fast or stealthy) targets, continue to function despite adversary jamming attempts and counter-surveillance techniques, and conform to stringent size and weight requirements.

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4) Advanced Electronics and Computing

Advanced electronics and computing are concerned with information processing, systems that are programmable, and the technologies that support them.

It includes silicon-based digital information processing technologies like traditional microprocessors; specialist chips such as Graphical Processing Units (GPUs); Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs); ApplicationSpecific Integrated Circuits (ASICs); and system-on-chip computing boards.

It includes supporting elements like memory and associated software development environments. It also includes emerging information technologies like neuromorphic processors, and non-silicon-based quantum and DNA computing.

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5) Data science and data transfer (IIOT, 5G)

Data Science is the extraction of useful insights from data. Data transfer is the ability to efficiently move data and insights from one location to another.

The Industry Internet of Things (IIOT) in relation to defence and security application are ships, tanks, planes, drones, they all require secure computer network connectivity.

Military combat technology has been growing at such a fast pace. Today, defence applications gather data through a range of sensors on various platforms, land, sea and air. The data gathered from these sensors is sent through a Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) system, to be analysed and interpreted.

This is where the most crucial part of IIOT defence technology comes in to play – it isn’t the technology itself which concludes success, but how well the data is interpreted and this is where combining other key technologies such as machine vision and AI technology will play a vital role in predictive outcomes.

5G also promises to be a real game changer for the defence sector – giving lightning-fast transmission speeds and the capacity to cope with large volumes of data. 5G comms is expected to move voice, video, text and image data with bandwidth as fast as 300 GHz, to create real-time data on demand in the battlefield.

Of course, with multiple applications running on a 5G connection, it is critical to ensure secure and streamlined data. A well-managed IT infrastructure will ensure the high volume of 5G traffic it generates does not conflict with any other operational data traffic.

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How will computer hardware adapt?

It’s clear to see that advancing software technologies, and data, will play a big part in the future of defence technology, but how about computer hardware? Software and hardware need to work in synergy.

There is undoubtedly a place for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware within the defence and security sector, especially in areas such as AI relying on GPU’s which have typically been driven forward by the commercial-enthusiast sectors more than anything.

However, suppose improper consideration is given to the hardware selection and protection. In that case, there is a real risk of unexpected and accelerated failures, especially given that defence computing frequently needs to be deployed at the edge.

As defence technologies evolve, this drives the need to combine rapidly advancing technology in a ruggedised and certified solution to suit challenging environmental constraints.


Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and the regular use of data will become commonplace.

Behind the scenes, computer hardware platforms are having their own period of evolution and will continue to play a vital role in supporting the performance, reliability and security of defence applications everywhere.

To learn more about Captec’s computer hardware solutions for defence and security applications, visit our defence computing web page.

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