Navy Grant Fuels Effort to Improve Safety of Military Technology

The Naval Engineering Education Consortium grant will advance the use of computer vision to guarantee the integrity of electronic circuitry in military technology. (Photo by Magnascan)

An Indiana University expert in the high-tech field of computer vision will collaborate with U.S. Navy engineers to improve the quality of microelectronic components used in critical military systems like communication and navigation. David Crandall, a professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, has received $450,000 from the Naval Engineering Education Consortium to conduct research in collaboration with the Crane, Ind.-based Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division on new methods to guarantee the integrity of the electronic circuitry used in U.S. Navy platforms.

"Our project will apply the principles of computer vision to improve the inspection of these technologies, which currently require quality control conducted by people painstakingly examining circuits underneath microscopes," explained Crandall.

Computer vision uses machine learning to "train" machines in the creation of algorithms that recognize patterns like faces, scenes and actions. The technology is familiar, as the same basic methods power Google's image search or the motion sensors in Microsoft's Xbox Kinect. The IU-NSWC Crane project will work to apply this pattern-recognition power to spotting microscopic flaws in electronic circuits and semiconductors.

"Today's military employs devices with immensely complicated integrated circuits whose logic gates are less than 25 nanometers wide and feature upwards of 20 billion individual transistors," said Robert Templeman, lead engineer on the project at NSWC Crane and a graduate of the IU School of Informatics and Computing. "What once could be inspected by the naked eye, and later optical magnification, now requires state-of-the-art instruments that create images from sophisticated imaging technology, challenging the limits of human inspection."

The IU-NSWC Crane collaboration will take place in three phrases. The first year will investigate the project's primary challenges and explore solutions. The second two years will be "operation periods" that "expand the scope and ambition of the previous year's goals," Crandall said.