For more than two hours on April 29, advanced robots’ brains flew a Mako drone fighter pilot built into Kratos just as it should have been. The aircraft test was a milestone in the Air Force’s efforts to develop a new, more efficient system for a growing military fleet of robot-sized robots.
Installed in the “autonomy core system,” or ACS, a new robotic control system is essential for the awesome Air Force system called Skyborg – an AI that can fly aircraft to fight side-by-side human pilots, and learn from this process.
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This first test was passed over the same Tyndall Air Force Base that had been testing Ghost four-legged robots for basic safety. Before Skyborg flies next to human aircraft, the Air Force wants it to complete the bases, which was the point of the April test. Mako is a cheap test platform for exercises like this, adapted from an aerial target drone.
These basics include the most common components of a flight, such as taking a trip, air travel, and non-incidental stays, as well as complex tasks, such as getting travel instructions for people. Part of the test includes seeing if Skyborg can navigate with a drone around the geofence, or a built-in space barrier defined by GPS points. The Air Force watched the plane take off from the ground and in the sky, and followed its progress in those activities and in others.
“We are very excited about the successful flight of the first version of the Skyborg program. It is the first step in the race for Skyborg’s continued growth in technology, “said Brigadier General Dale White, chief executive officer for aviation and advanced flight services, says the report.
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The public goal of Skyborg’s plan is to create robots that can travel on a completely independent basis, while they are much cheaper than expensive military pilots (such as the more expensive F-35, the more expensive). They are also widely used, but the term used by the Air Force is “attractive.” This is small in actively making a cheap, nearly disposable drone, and much more by having a plane cheap enough that its loss in battle is not costly or, perhaps more importantly, a loss of power.
Skyborg is not a single design, but focuses on building and moving various drone bodies for the same purpose. The term refers specifically to the type of AI that will direct private drone aircraft as they fly alongside built-in combat aircraft. The Air Force has contracted with three companies to build prototype fighter-jet drones that make flying.
Central to that process will be how AI on board drones enter, store, and adapt to new sensor information. Machine learning enables all drones to learn from the actions and data of each task. Training algorithms often require a large amount of data, especially novel data. Some of them will be manufactured on training aircraft, which should make the aircraft more dignified in all its explicitly trained conditions.
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What will be a challenge for Skyborg in the future, and which could be a concern for any military project built around private equipment trained with available data, will be unusual. If a drone is used to fly with an F-35, and then emerges from the attack, what happens if its data link is disconnected, or if it receives false information, or if hostile drones disrupt the flight path? War is an accumulation of expected risks that create completely new conditions. Relying on robots to navigate them well means placing a large amount of faith in a type of data processing specifically designed to achieve unexpected results.
In the next few months, the Air Force Research Laboratory plans to do more with Skyborg’s first aircraft. Navigation and the art of self-defense in space are an integral part of the Air Force’s vision of a future war. The war-aided war may ultimately reduce the tendency towards more expensive prosecutors, and force countries to give more thought to arranging the air force in the most important way since the widespread adoption of jets and arrows.
Before all of this can happen, Skyborg needs to prove that it can play well with other airlines, and if not, it needs to show that its independent system is able to adapt in order to perform in the future.