The US Air Force (USAF) has launched a competition to design the artificially intelligent software, called Skyborg, that would control its planned fleet of loyal wingman unmanned air vehicles (UAV). The service intends to grant indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts worth $400 million per awardee to develop the software and related hardware, it says in a request for proposals released on 15 May. The USAF is looking for technical and cost proposals from companies by 15 June 2020 and intends to award multiple companies contracts, though it may award just one contract or no contracts, based on proposals. Skyborg would be artificially intelligent software used to control the flight path, weapons and sensors of large numbers of UAVs. Automating flight control, in particular via artificial intelligence, is seen as necessary to allow a single person, perhaps a backseat pilot in a fighter aircraft, to command multiple UAVs at once.
"I expect the first things that we'll do will not appear as sexy as what you might imagine in a movie, but will be completely game-changing," Roper explained at the conference on Mar. 13, 2019. He did not elaborate, but one of the immediate benefits of an AI or AI-enabled system is the increased speed of decision-making. At first, a drone with Skyborg might not necessarily do anything a manned aircraft can't do already, but it will be able to perform those tasks, such as aerial combat maneuvers or weapons employment, faster based on its set parameters. Where a human might be distracted or confused by the chaos of an aerial engagement, an autonomous unmanned aircraft would simply act. The drone would be able to make its decision quickly, but also based on an immense amount of situational data that would take an actual pilot much longer to process.
The U.S. Air Force is finally pushing into the world of robot combat drones, vowing to fly the first of its "Skyborg" drones by 2023. The service envisions Skyborg as a merging of artificial intelligence with jet-powered drones. The result will be drones capable of flying alongside fighter jets, carrying out dangerous missions. Skyborg drones will be much cheaper than piloted aircraft, allowing the Air Force to grow its fleet at a lower cost. The Air Force, according to Defense News, will award a total of $400 million to one or more companies to develop different types of Skyborg drones.
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts said the Loyal Wingman's role could include carrying weapons in combat and protecting assets like the E-7A Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft as well as being used as a target to shield manned fighter jets such as the F-35A and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
We all know our friends are sometimes far better at picking dates for us than we are for ourselves. Since Wingman launched earlier this year, they've been helping people play cupid for their nearest and dearest. In a recent survey, they asked their top 50 matchmakers (those who'd had the most connections accepted by both parties) what their proven strategies were. As one top wingman put it, "Don't overthink it.