Published in AI

AI successfully fights against a human pilot

by on19 April 2024

So where the ‘ell was Biggles when we needed him last Saturday

The Yanks are taking to the skies with AI at the helm. The boffins at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have let slip that they've had an AI-piloted jet go toe-to-toe with a human pilot up in the wild blue yonder.

In December 2022, DARPA started fiddling with AI for their Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme. They've been busy bees, working on an AI system that can fly a fighter jet on its own, all the while making sure it sticks to the Air Force's safety rules.

After a bit of a play with dogfighting simulations using the AI pilot, DARPA decided to put their tech to the actual test. They popped the AI system into their experimental X-62A aircraft. This bit of kit took to the skies at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where, in September 2023, it had its first successful scrap with a human in the cockpit.

There were flesh-and-blood pilots aboard the X-62A, ready to hit the brakes on the AI if needed, but DARPA reckons there wasn't a moment they had to use the "off" switch.

The X-62A had a bit of a showdown with an F-16, with a human flying solo. Both birds showed off some fancy flying, getting within 2,000 feet of each other while zipping along at 1,200 miles per hour. DARPA's keeping mum on who the top gun was.

"Dogfighting was the problem to solve so we could start testing autonomous artificial intelligence systems in the air," said Bill Gray, the top gun at the Air Force's Test Pilot School. "Every lesson we’re learning applies to every task you could give to an autonomous system."

So far, they've completed 21 test flights and plan to continue until 2024. With AI getting smarter by the minute, there's a bit of a kerfuffle about how the military might use these systems.

Last modified on 19 April 2024
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