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By Clare O’Gara
Tue | Jun 9, 2020 | 6:15 AM PDT

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a vital resource, be it for the cybersecurity world or, as SecureWorld recently covered, a tool for research (including scientific studies about selfies).

AI's latest stop? Apparently, U.S. Air Force cockpits.

Pitting a human pilot vs. a fighter drone

According to Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, this evolving Air Force initiative is about pushing the limits of what the military can build.

And for the Air Force Research Laboratory team (AFRL), that means developing a robot pilot that's superior to a human one.

The team launched the plan for an AI fighter jet in 2018. Now, they're taking things a step further: they plan to pit a human pilot and an autonomous aircraft against each other in 2021.

Steve Rogers, who leads the AFRL team, says this goal stems from a question the group wants to answer:

"Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience," Rogers told Inside Defense. "What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can't even begin to think about?”

If the project works, the Air Force is anticipating rapid innovation within the realm of AI-enabled systems.

AI in transportation: an uphill battle

The increased traction of AI, aided by this project from the AFRL team, certainly shows some encouraging perspectives about autonomous transportation.

But Shanahan cautioned against blind optimism, pointing toward the self-driving car industry for guidance and warning:

"There is no level four, fully autonomous vehicle out on the roads today," he said, despite several companies investing billions of dollars in the idea. "On the other hand, that's a decade worth of experience we should be pulling into the military because they've learned so much."

What do you think about this Air Force initiative?