Military Embedded Systems

AI algorithm achieves first flight as copilot during Air Force test


December 17, 2020

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Air Force photo.

WASHINGTON. The U.S. Air Force announced that it has conducted test flight with artificial intelligence (AI) as a working aircrew member onboard a military aircraft for the first time. The AI algorithm, known as ARTUµ, flew with the pilot on a U-2 Dragon Lady assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base.

According to the Air Force, Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory researchers developed ARTUµ and trained it to execute specific in-flight tasks that otherwise would be done by the pilot.

During this flight, ARTUµ was responsible for sensor employment and tactical navigation, while the pilot flew the aircraft and coordinated with the AI on sensor operation. Together, they flew a reconnaissance mission during a simulated missile strike with the algorithm's primary responsibility being to find enemy launchers while the pilot was on the lookout for threatening aircraft, both sharing the U-2’s radar.

After takeoff, officials claim that the sensor control was positively handed-off to ARTUµ who then manipulated the sensor based on insight previously learned from over a half-million computer simulated training iterations. The pilot and AI successfully teamed to share the sensor and achieve the mission objectives, according to the Air Force.


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