At a US airport, several companies recently performed a world first. A human fighter pilot clashed with an AI piloting a Chinese J-20 fighter. However, it was a virtual projection. What are the undersides of this fight?
A fight mixing reality and virtuality
In June 2020, the Pentagon had already announced its intention to fight two fighter jets, the first piloted by a human and the second, completely autonomous, managed by an AI. Jack Shanahan of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center had mentioned “a kind of aerial combat” without mentioning more details. The goal? Test the warlike skills of artificial intelligence. Recently, the Red 6 and EpiSci companies experimented with DARPA, an agency of the United States Department of Defense.
An astonishing battle mixing reality and virtuality took place at the Camarillo airport in California. The human pilot was at the controls of an authentic Berkut 500, and the AI was operating a China Army J-20 stealth fighter. On the other hand, this J-20 did not exist physically, but only virtually projected in the helmet worn by the pilot. Specifically, the pilot received information in augmented reality (AR) using a special visor.
Moreover, the Berkut 500 (see below) is not a fighter plane, but a “duck plane”, a small plane carrying a propeller engine at the rear. The swept-back main wing can be found at the rear, but the front also features two reduced-size wings. However, the structure of this aircraft allows it to simulate the movements of a fighter aircraft.
AI for more economical and safer training
The augmented reality system Airborne Battle of Red EpiSci 6 and is in line with the instrumentation of the aircraft. The latter also interacts with what is happening in the cockpit. To get a good performance in AR during flight, the technology must be perfectly ingested in the cockpit. Obviously, both external and external sensors need to deliver real-time data smoothly.
Officials did not mention which human or AI won the fight. However, the researchers achieved their goal: to test the capabilities of augmented reality AI in real conditions. Also, AI and AR make it possible to simulate real alien hunters with their own characteristics. It is also possible to represent vehicles and other installations on the ground to enrich the combat scenarios.
For researchers, this technology could allow fighter pilots to train for combat in real conditions. Pilots have many sensations without having to stage two planes. Not surprisingly, the cost of such training is further halved. Finally, this eliminates any risk of accident (collisions) between planes.