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DARPA Works on New AI-Tool for Zero-Pilot Military Aircraft

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is building a new artificial intelligence-based technology that would give military aircraft the capability to enhance flight safety, performance and reduce onboard crew members, FCW reported Wednesday.

The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System is a customizable, drop-in and removable AI kit that allows operators to integrate advanced automation to existing aircraft.  DARPA already completed initial tests of the effectiveness of ALIAS' sense and avoid capabilities in 2016 aboard a Cessna 172G aircraft. The agency aims to conduct the first fly-by-wire experiment with the tool in May or June with Sikorsky. 

"We need the fly-by-wire to add a computer in the middle that helps and augments a human," Lt. Colonel Philip Root, acting deputy director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, told FCW. "Once we prove that works, now we can begin adding the autonomy flight controls, operating in the background."

The agency plans to conduct the first zero-pilot test with ALIAS in early 2020 with a Black Hawk helicopter. Sikorsky received a $35.7 million contract from DARPA in 2016 to lead the demonstration. Root said that amid the tests DARPA is also working on building trust with service members to use the autonomous technology in the future. 

"Trust is two parts: You have to believe the system can actually deliver and you have to see it deliver routinely. Those two things are separate," he said. "We can provide ability to trust a machine if we develop it from the ground up to foster that trust."


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