AI Co-pilot Demonstrated in Lockheed Martin U-2S

As reported by Steve Trimble at AviationWeek.com, a recent USAF AI demonstration in a Lockheed Martin U-2S was an incremental step toward greater use of computer software to improve flight performance.  The software, ARTUμ, partially assumed a decision process typical of the mission commander—it decided when the software would search for missiles—instead of its being commanded to do so by the pilot. “Luke Skywalker certainly never took such orders from [his] X-Wing sidekick,” Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote in an opinion column published in Popular Mechanics after the flight. “The U-2 AI flight isn’t a finish line at all,” Roper said in a follow-up meeting with journalists. “It’s just a starting pistol.”

“The Skyborg program is seeking to apply an AI-enabled autonomous control system being integrated by Leidos on multiple unmanned aircraft systems. The software for the AI agent is likely to build on DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program, which demonstrated an AI pilot on a flying General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. MQ-9B in October.”  Dr. Roper tweeted about the AI program, saying “we modified world-leading μZero gaming algorithms to operate the U-2's radar." μZero is a leading program that “dominates chess, Go, and even video games without prior knowledge of their rules.”  The Air Force’s U-2 Federal Laboratory trained μZero software to operate a radar by running more than a million simulated missions over a period of weeks. The Skyborg program is applying AI-enabled control systems to a variety of UAVs. “The software for the AI agent is likely to build on DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program, which demonstrated an AI pilot on a flying General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. MQ-9B in October.”

ARTUμ is reportedly a beacon of inspiration to the Space Force’s “Kobayashi Maru” software laboratory. Trekkies will recall that Kobayashi Maru is a training exercise in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. As reported by Wikipedia, the Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek.  Photos courtesy of the USAF via AvWeek, Forbes and Popular Mechanics.

We hope you found this content both helpful and informative.

If you did, please consider a donation to the NREF. We are an educational non-profit that relies on readers like you to continue producing quality content like this.