The US Air Force Research Laboratory has carried out the first flight of a Valkyrie drone using AI.
The three-hour test flight on July 25 at the Eglin Test and Training Complex demonstrated machine-learning trained, artificial intelligence algorithms on an XQ-58A Valkyrie.
The flight is part of a four year program which began with the Skyborg Vanguard and the Autonomous Aircraft Experimentation (AAx) programs.
Col. Tucker Hamilton, DAF AI test and operations chief said, “The mission proved out a multi-layer safety framework on an AI/ML-flown uncrewed aircraft and demonstrated an AI/ML agent solving a tactically relevant challenge problem during airborne operations.
“This sortie officially enables the ability to develop AI/ML agents that will execute modern air-to-air and air-to-surface skills that are immediately transferrable to other autonomy programs.”
The algorithms were developed by AFRL’s Autonomous Air Combat Operations team. The algorithms were developed using millions of hours of high-fidelity simulation, sorties on the X-62 VISTA, Hardware-in-the-Loop testing with the XQ-58A and ground testing.
The US Air Force’s AACO (Autonomous Air Combat Operations) program manager said, “AACO has taken a multi-pronged approach to uncrewed flight testing of machine learning Artificial Intelligence and has met operational experimentation objectives by using a combination of high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, and hardware in the loop testing to train an AI agent to safely fly the XQ-58 uncrewed aircraft.”
“AI will be a critical element to future warfighting and the speed at which we’re going to have to understand the operational picture and make decisions,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, AFRL commander. “AI, Autonomous Operations, and Human-Machine Teaming continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace and we need the coordinated efforts of our government, academia and industry partners to keep pace.”