EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been used to successfully pilot an aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base (EAFB), the base has announced.
According to EAFB, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Eglin led a successful three-hour sortie on July 25, 2023, demonstrating the first-ever flight of artificial intelligence agents (algorithms) controlling an XQ-58A Valkyrie uncrewed aircraft.
The flight on the Eglin Test and Training Complex was the culmination of the previous two years of partnership that began with the Skyborg Vanguard program.
“The mission proved out a multi-layer safety framework on an AI/ML-flown uncrewed aircraft and demonstrated an AI/ML agent solving a tactically relevant “challenge problem” during airborne operations,” said Col. Tucker Hamilton, Air Force AI Test and Operations chief and 96th Operations Group commander.
“This sortie officially enables the ability to develop AI/ML agents that will execute modern air-to-air and air-to-surface skills that are immediately transferrable to the CCA program.”
According to EAFB, the algorithms were developed by AFRL’s Autonomous Air Combat Operations team (AACO). The algorithms matured during millions of hours in high-fidelity simulation events, sorties on the X-62 VISTA, Hardware-in-the-Loop events with the XQ-58A, and ground test operations.
“AACO has taken a multi-pronged approach to uncrewed flight testing of machine learning Artificial Intelligence and has met operational experimentation objectives by using a combination of high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, and hardware in the loop testing to train an AI agent to safely fly the XQ-58 uncrewed aircraft,” said Dr. Terry Wilson, AACO program manager.
DOD is committed to the responsible employment of AI. Achieving responsible use of AI requires teaming of developers and users of AI-enabled autonomy working in collaboration with acquisition specialists.
“AI will be a critical element to future warfighting and the speed at which we’re going to have to understand the operational picture and make decisions,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, AFRL commander.
“AI, Autonomous Operations, and Human-Machine Teaming continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace, and we need the coordinated efforts of our government, academia, and industry partners to keep pace.”