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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Idex 2021: Lockheed Martin interns develop algorithm to detect defects on aircraft

The artificial intelligence created in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is now being used by the aerospace and defence company’s teams in the US

What started as a summer project for 13 interns at Lockheed Martin in Abu Dhabi led to an application used by the defence company in America.

The university students worked a total of 1,200 hours alongside four US-based mentors to build an artificial intelligence algorithm to detect paint and primer defects on jets, a time-consuming task usually performed by people.

We were able to digitise the time-consuming process of inspecting aircraft manually and delivered a real-world solution that drives significant time and cost savings

Hala Alzargani

“We initially started working with Lockheed Martin mentors to provide training for Emirati talent interested in careers in the aerospace and defence sector. As work progressed, we were able to digitise the time-consuming process of inspecting aircraft manually and delivered a real-world solution that drives significant time and cost savings,” said Hala Alzargani, lead engineer at Lockheed Martin’s Centre for Innovation and Security Solutions in Masdar City.

The product is an early sign that national efforts to develop local expertise in technology is taking root.

Gulf countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are developing their domestic military industries with the aim of diversifying their economies, creating jobs and reducing reliance on imports.

One of the most pressing challenges in designing and applying artificial intelligence is building local capacity, said Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for AI.

Military systems underpinned by AI, such as missile defence, cyber security, drones and counter-unmanned aerial vehicles, are the most in-demand at this year’s International Defence Exhibition and Conference. Event organisers expect to draw as much as $5 billion in new contracts.

Idex is currently under way in the capital, where a few of the interns are proudly demonstrating their AI solution at the Lockheed Martin stand.

Robert Harward, chief executive for Lockheed Martin in the Middle East, told The National the company works closely with the UAE’s defence conglomerate Edge and the Ministry of Defence to recruit interns and develop work in the country’s interest.

Lockheed Martin’s Ciss has hosted merit-based interns since 2017 and 100 interns have graduated from its programme to date.

The placements provide specialist training in AI development and unmanned aerial vehicle design, defence simulation exercises and business administration.

“The best part of the internship was having the daily stand up meeting with the US mentors and learning from them while we developed the capability,” said Athari Hasan Alzaabi, an intern studying software security engineering at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic.

She said the placement deepened her understanding of AI and taught her how to apply agile software development practices “to develop real-world AI projects”.

Idex 2021 opens in Abu Dhabi - in pictures

Updated: February 21, 2021 08:56 PM

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