US DoD, DARPA To Develop AI Autopilot To Reduce Air Flight Crew Size

  • Our Bureau
  • 09:47 AM, April 25, 2014
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US DoD, DARPA To Develop AI Autopilot To Reduce Air Flight Crew Size
US DoD, DARPA To Develop AI Autopilot To Reduce Air Flight Crew Size

The US Defense Department along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Tuesday said they are developing a method of autopilot that may allow the military to reduce air flight crews to a fraction of their current size.

DARPA says it will work to introduce automated flight systems in aircraft over the next 50 years.

While military planes and aviation vehicles would still be flown by a pilot, that soldier would serve as a high-level "mission supervisor" who issues commands through a touch screen. The technology could replace five members of a flight crew, according to a statement.

"Our goal is to design and develop a full-time automated assistant that could be rapidly adapted to help operate diverse aircraft through an easy-to-use operator interface," Daniel Pratt, a program manager at DARPA, said in the notice published this week. "These capabilities could help transform the role of pilot from a systems operator to a mission supervisor directing intermeshed trusted, reliable systems at a high level."

The plan is officially known as the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit automation System (ALIAS) and will act essentially as an autopilot program that will help with every aspect of the flight. As currently advertised, ALIAS will be involved with takeoff, landing, and even in-flight emergencies. It may also have a hand in any number of smaller tasks, such as aircraft maintenance.

"ALIAS should present a high-level, latency-tolerant interface to a human supervisor to enable operation and foster effective human-machine collaboration," the statement went on. "For example, simple touch and voice interfaces may enable supervisor-ALIAS interaction."

ALIAS will be designed with a pilot in mind, although DARPA also said it will be capable of completing every aspect of a mission if pre-programmed.