Real Aircraft Pilot Fights Virtual Enemy in AR Training

The AR training experiment is aimed at improving the cost and efficiency of U.S. military training.
Chris Young
Daniel Robinson flying Berkut 560Red6ceo/Instagram

In a world-first, a jet pilot flying a real aircraft fought against a virtual fighter powered by artificial intelligence (AI) via an augmented reality (AR) visor, The Drive reports.

The goal of the experiment, run by Red 6 and EpiSci, is to help develop a technology that would reduce the U.S. military's training costs by allowing fighter pilots to train in AR dogfights.


Using technology to optimize military training

With the U.S. military's current technology, fighter pilots either have to go up in pairs to train for battle situations or they train using a simulator without leaving the ground. 

In the new demonstration, the pilot, veteran F-22 pilot Daniel Robinson, flew an experimental plane, Freeflight Composites' Berkut 560, while wearing an augmented reality headset created by US-based autonomous technologies company EpiSci.

Real Aircraft Pilot Fights Virtual Enemy in AR Training
Source: Red6ceo/Instagram

The AR headset includes a mounted display to show the movements of the virtual AI-driven enemy, a representation of a Chinese stealth fighter in this case.

"With this first-ever within-visual-range dogfight against an AI bandit, EpiSci’s Tactical AI demonstrated the ability to work on a real aircraft, with flight-ready hardware and sensors," Chris Gentile, EpiSci’s vice president for tactical autonomous systems, told The Drive.

Virtual dogfights

The new experiment follows on from EpiSci's work on the Alpha Dogfight program by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The program had real fighter pilots take on AI-powered fighters on the ground via virtual reality headsets. Notably, during the program, an AI was able to defeat a real fighter pilot in combat.

"Pilots of the future will need to be comfortable teaming with AI — and training is the ideal place to introduce this technology," Gentile said. 

The simulation used in the AR military demonstration was created by combat training startup Red 6, founded by the pilot for the experiment, Daniel Robinson.

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