A-Z of Artificial Intelligence


The instructions or rules a machine is programmed to follow when solving certain problems or performing other tasks. Algorithms are the basis of AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI):

Artificial intelligence is the science of replicating or simulating in technology the intelligence or behaviour of human beings, animals or insects. It allows technology, machines and systems to have certain cognitive or behavioural capabilities. When it comes to applications in the security sector, we are currently talking about narrow AI. That means that AI is generally limited to specific tasks that simulate intelligence or behaviour, but that are generally bound by pre-determined, pre-defined rules and options.

Big data:

In the field of AI and security, big data refers to the accumulation of huge amounts of data (e.g. from sensors placed on vehicles and systems) that are too complex and large for traditional data analysis tools to process. This is where artificial intelligence comes into play: through machine learning, it can help sift through all this data and come up with possible patterns and solutions by itself.

Black Box:

The phenomenon that some AI systems are so complex and opaque that nobody knows exactly how their algorithms process data and how they reach certain outcomes. The black box of AI makes it, for example, difficult to abide by the ethical principle ´traceability’ of the US Department of Defense, which prescribes that ‘relevant personnel possess an appropriate understanding of the technology’ involved and work with ´transparent methodologies.

Deep learning:

Part of machine learning, deep learning is done by advanced algorithms that can, by imitating neural networks of the human brain, extract higher-level features (e.g. patterns, analysis, options) from raw data.

Deep neural networks: 

Part of deep learning, deep neural networks consist of many different layers of analysis, in which each layer represents a mathematical calculation process. This allows these networks to model more complex processes or relationships.


Ethics is a system of moral principles about what is wrong or right. In the context of AI and security, ethics especially deals with the moral dilemmas and decisions taken surrounding the operations, policies and practices of security actors: defense, intelligence and law enforcement personnel and institutions. 

High-altitude long-endurance (HALE UAV):

High-altitude long-endurance systems are characterized by satellite control links, a high operational ceiling of up to 65,000 feet and their ability to stay airborne for extended periods of time. HALE systems are used for ISR and ISTAR missions, battle network communication and increasingly electronic warfare. They can carry advanced sensor and radar payloads as well as various weaponry, such as anti-tank and surface-to-ground missiles. A well-known HALE is the Northrop Grumman Triton, which can scan 100,000 square meters a day and stay airborne for more than 30 hours at a time.

Intelligence, Surveillance, Target acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR):

The activity of equipping armed forces with information and intelligence to assist in combat roles and other operational duties. Unmanned vehicles and systems use a variety of sensors and functions to collect data, which is then shared with personnel to improve situation awareness.

Loitering munitions:

A loitering munition, also referred to as kamikaze or suicide drone, is a type of UAV designed to loiter over a designated area, where it locates and engages ground targets with an explosive warhead. Loitering munitions can be piloted or pre-programmed to strike specific targets. They vary in size from small, portable systems weighing as little as 3 kilograms to larger systems that can stay airborne for hours and destroy tanks and armoured vehicles. Israel is the leading developer and exporter of loitering munitions. The IAI Harop, for example, is an Israeli loitering munition that is operated by at least six countries.

Machine ethics:

Relates to machines developing ethical principles or ways of how to deal with ethical dilemmas they may encounter. Machines can be programmed to function in an ethically responsible manner, but they could, potentially, also learn how to do this themselves through machine learning.

Machine learning:

Machine learning enables machines and systems to learn from data they receive, analyze and apply new information in the face of new situations and recommend or take decisions that go beyond pre-programmed options.

Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T):

Manned-unmanned teaming refers to a collaborative network of soldiers, manned and unmanned systems that allows a single operator to team with unmanned vehicles. MUM-T is a key strategic priority for militaries as it enhances decision-making and the level of interoperability between ground forces, manned aircraft and UAS. One example of MUM-T technology is the US Air Force’s Skyborg programme in which UCAVs are developed to function as “loyal wingman” to manned aircrafts. 

Medium-altitude long-endurance UAV (MALE UAV):

Medium-altitude long-endurance systems operate at altitudes between 10,000 and 45,000 feet for extended durations of time, typically between 24-48 hours. MALE UAVs can be weaponized/armed with missiles, bombs, laser designators and other weaponry. The most well known examples are the Predator and its successor the MQ-9 Reaper, so-called hunter killer drones developed by the US company General Atomics. The Hermes 900 is another well-known MALE, developed by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. 

Small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS):

Small unmanned aerial systems are portable, multi rotor  platforms with a maximum take-off weight of 25 kilograms or less. They are widely available in the commercial sector, but their relatively low price tag, manoeuvrability and small size also makes them attractive for military purposes. Small unmanned aerial systems equipped with AI can be used to autonomously map areas without the need for GPS. They can also be weaponized with various payloads, such as grenade launchers or machine guns. 

Supervised Learning

Supervised learning is a type of machine learning in which the machine learns by using labelled data. Supervised learning is used to 


A drone swarm is a multitude of unmanned platforms capable of flying and coordinating independently to accomplish a shared objective. This capability is underpinned by artificial swarm intelligence that models the collaborative behaviour exhibited by insects and birds. Swarms are usually composed of small multirotor UAVs, mini-helicopters. or tube-launched loitering munitions with heterogeneous capabilities, such as ISR, electronic warfare and precision targeting. Swarming technology is currently developed by at least seven countries, including China, Great Britain, India, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US.

Tactical unmanned aerial systems (TUAS):

Tactical unmanned aerial systems have a fixed wing design, which enables them to stay in the air longer and scan a wider area than rotor-based platforms. They can be runway, vehicle or catapult launched. Some tactical unmanned aerial systems combine a fixed-wing design with rotors, enabling vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). The majority of tactical unmanned aerial systems are used for ISR missions to provide ground forces with situational awareness, while some are also used to carry out air strikes. 

Unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV):

Unmanned combat aerial combat vehicles are advanced unmanned systems used predominantly for covert ISR missions and strategic bombing. Three different talents define the UCAV segment: stealth (to gain access to enemy territory undetected), hypersonic speed and agility, and serving as an “attritable aerial asset,” meaning a disposable apparatus that can be locally controlled by aircraft pilots. While multiple countries, including the US, are heavily investing in the development of UCAVs, they are not yet operational. 

Unmanned helicopters and mini-helicopters:

Unmanned helicopters and their smaller counterparts mini-helicopters are rotor-based unmanned systems with a single rotor or multiple rotors. China is the leading developer of mini helicopters, offering missile launchers, machine guns, and small precision bomb capabilities. In addition to strike and air support capabilities, unmanned helicopters can be used for swarming, cargo delivery and search and rescue missions. 

Unsupervised Learning

Unsupervised learning is a type of machine learning in which the machine is training on unlabelled data without any guidance. Unsupervised learning is used to understand patterns and discover output.