An A.I Just Defeated a Human Fighter Pilot in Multiple Dogfight Simulations

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 - 5:15AM
Artificial Intelligence
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 - 5:15AM
An A.I Just Defeated a Human Fighter Pilot in Multiple Dogfight Simulations
Over the last few years, there's been a lot of talk about Tom Cruise returning for a sequel to the hit fighter pilot action flick, Top Gun. Jerry Bruckheimer, the man responsible for that action classic has said that he envisaged the sequel updating the franchise by pitting Tom Cruise's Maverick against drone fighters in a battle to prove human pilots are no longer obsolete. If Maverick were real, a new Artificial Intelligence test out of the University of Cincinnati might just have made his quest a lot more tricky.

An A.I pilot developed by Nick Ernest, a doctoral graduate, has shown that it might be the true Top Gun by defeating not just other A.I fighter pilots, but a decorated human pilot as well. The A.I, which is appropriately named ALPHA, went up against former Air Force Battle Manager and adversary tactics instructor, Colonel Gene 'Geno' Lee, and won....every time. Colonel Lee, who has played a part in thousands of air-to-air intercepts over his distinguished career labelled ALPHA "the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible A.I. I've seen to date." And, when a man like Geno says we should take note, it's probably wise to take note.


Credit: Lisa Ventre, University of Cincinnati


Adding even more weight to Lee's comments is the fact that he's been taking on A.I pilots for many years, and as such he's suitably placed to know whether or not an A.I is capable of changing the landscape of aerial warfare. While it might be early days right now, Lee said that ALPHA is unlike anything he has come up against before.

Opening quote
"I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was," said Lee. "It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed."
Closing quote

Developed by Ernest's company, Psibernetix (which sounds worryingly like a sci-fi mega-corp that ends up wiping out humanity), ALPHA uses a decision making system known as a genetic fuzzy tree. This algorithm sees ALPHA take to problem solving in a human-like manner. When approaching a task, ALPHA will break the problem down into multiple sub-tasks, sorting them and prioritizing them on a relevance basis. By prioritizing only the most important factors, such as firing patterns and speed, ALPHA is able to make extremely complex combat decisions at a lightning speed.

Arguably the most notable element to this test was Colonel Lee's comments on how he felt after coming up against ALPHA in this series of grueling dogfight tests.

Opening quote
"I go home feeling washed out. I'm tired, drained and mentally exhausted. This may be artificial intelligence, but it represents a real challenge."
Closing quote

That right there is the terrifying difference between humans and A.I. In many cases, humans might be able to make crucial decisions that we would rather not leave up to an A.I., but with an A.I. pilot like ALPHA, stamina and endurance is simply not a factor. After dogfights that can last multiple hours, the human pilot is washed out and both mentally and physically exhausted. In a combat situation, that human pilot would need a good few hours of rest before being deemed able to safely return to combat, whereas the A.I. pilot can keep on going and going. 

Of course, Ernest's Psibernetix isn't developing ALPHA to secure air supremacy over the entire globe. Instead, Ernest envisages a future in which A.I. pilots are the ultimate wingmen to their human counterparts. Given the fine margins that come with fighting a battle at speeds in excess of 1500mph, A.I.s like ALPHA could play the Goose to our Mavericks by acting as a failsafe in the event of human error.




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Technology
Artificial Intelligence

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