Artificial intelligence co-pilots US Air Force U-2 spy plane

U.S. Air Force photo

The United States Air Force tested the use of artificial intelligence to pilot a military aircraft. The experiment took place on board a U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, on December 15, 2020. 

Named after Star Wars’ “astromech droid” R2-D2, Artuµ is based on µZero artificial intelligence, an AI developed for strategy games. For the test, the AI algorithm was working as a proper aircrew member and shared the radar with a human pilot. Its mission against another computer was to find enemy launchers, while the human had to spot hostile planes.

“We know that in order to fight and win in a future conflict with a peer adversary, we must have a decisive digital advantage,” commented Charles Brown Jr., U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. “AI will play a critical role in achieving that edge, so I’m incredibly proud of what the team accomplished. We must accelerate change and that only happens when our Airmen push the limits of what we thought was possible.”

The U.S. Air Force is increasingly interested in the applications of AI to piloting. Another project, called Skyborg, puts into competition 13 companies that have to develop an unmanned fighter aircraft. Controlled by AI, the UCAV would need to work as a wingman with other manned or unmanned fighters and execute commands issued by accompanying pilots. 


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