How do digital twins aid digitalisation in defence?

As geopolitical tensions rise throughout the world, defence agencies must explore and adopt technology that aids their missions. NATO has even shared official guidance emphasizing the importance of digital transformation in defence, recommending technologies that provide heightened situational awareness and data-driven decision-making to empower multi-domain operations (MDO.) As defence agencies have searched for these technologies, digital twins have gained attention. But what exactly are digital twins, and how can they be helpful in defence? 

Versions of digital reality

There are three types of digital reality. They are: 

  1. Digital model: A digital representation of a physical system or object (for instance, a transport network map that utilises data from a fixed point in time)  
  2. Digital shadow: A digital model that integrates an automated one-way data flow from the physical system or object (for example, a transport network map that pulls data from the system to dynamically update speeds, asset conditions and weather conditions)  
  3. Digital twin: A digital model that integrates a two-way data flow between the model and physical object or system, where making a change to one can change the other (for example, a control centre network map that displays real-time system status and enables engineers to control assets and mitigate issues) 

Digital twins are interactive virtual representations of physical assets, environments or even entire theatres of operation. As the defence industry trends toward digitalisation, the corresponding increases in connectivity, data flow and interoperability feed digital twins with real-time information.  

With the move to MDO, digital twins can act as a bridge between various disparate C4ISR solutions, integrating multiple multidirectional feeds and creating a common operational picture to assist commanders with making decisions. A digital twin can meet high-tempo operational requirements while providing the valuable insights produced during theoretical simulations of missions. 

Digital twin applications in defence

One of the many applications for digital twins in defence is serving as representations of unmanned vehicles (UVs). A digital twins can depict a UV’s engine, sensors and drive train, providing real-time information on battery health, location and chassis stress. Besides the vehicle itself, the digital twin can also depict the terrain the UV traverses. The digital twin could display current weather conditions, planned and actual routes and friendly force locations. 

The fundamental advantage of digital twins is their ability to digitally represent any physical asset, environment, theatre or workflow being used. Real-time information from sensors, whether for specific assets or monitoring, is fed into the digital twin. Within the digital twin, commanders can then use predictive models for various scenarios to make decisions. The information digital twins generate can be incorporated into mission plans, allowing for tactical choices such as alternative routing in changing weather conditions. 

Learn more

In essence, digital twins go beyond mere digital replicas; they are powerful tools for prediction, planning and optimisation. To learn more about digital twins, their building blocks and how they’re used in defence, read our white paper.

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