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AI algorithm ARTUµ flies with pilot on USAF’s U-2 Dragon Lady

17 Dec 2020 (Last Updated December 17th, 2020 17:37)

The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the successful flight of an AI algorithm, known as ARTUµ, with the pilot on a U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

AI algorithm ARTUµ flies with pilot on USAF’s U-2 Dragon Lady
U-2 Dragon Lady pilot prepares to taxi after returning from a training sortie. Credit: USAF / Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez.

The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the successful flight of an AI algorithm, known as ARTUµ, with the pilot on a U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

According to the USAF, this is the first military flight to fly with AI capability. This signalled a major step for national defence in the digital age.

Developed by Air Combat Command’s U-2 Federal Laboratory, ARTUµ was developed by a small team of researchers led by major Ray Tierney.

It was trained to perform specific ‘in-flight tasks’ usually carried out by the pilot.

US Air Force acquisition, technology and logistics assistant secretary William Roper said: “ARTUµ’s ground-breaking flight culminates our three-year journey to becoming a digital force.

“Putting AI safely in command of a US military system for the first-time ushers in a new age of human-machine teaming and algorithmic competition. Failing to realise AI’s full potential will mean ceding decision advantage to our adversaries.”

The AI military flight comes just two months after the team of U-2 Federal Laboratory updated ‘inflight software’ during a U-2 training mission.

USAF secretary Barbara Barrett said: “Blending expertise of a pilot with capabilities of machine learning, this historic flight directly answers the National Defense Strategy’s call to invest in autonomous systems.

“Innovations in artificial intelligence will transform both the air and space domains.”

In April, DARPA revealed that it is looking at how advanced low-cost sensors, AI algorithms, and virtual technology can be fused to create a common operating picture.