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Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

DARPA targets air combat maneuvering algorithm development

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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded five companies contracts to develop algorithms as a means of bolstering aerial combat maneuvering.

Boeing, EpiSci, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Heron Systems, and physicsAI would develop artificial intelligence agents expanding one-on-one engagements to two-on-one and two-on-two within-visual-range aerial battles – under Technical Area (TA) 1 of DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program.

“The TA1 performers include a large defense contractor, a university research institute and boutique AI firms, who will build upon the first-gen autonomous dogfighting algorithms demonstrated in the AlphaDogfight Trials this past August,” Air Force Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, said. “We will be evaluating how well each performer is able to advance their algorithms to handle individual and team tactical aircraft behaviors, in addition to how well they are able to scale the capability from a local within-visual-range environment to the broader, more complex battlespace.”

Tim Grayson, director of DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, acknowledged, while much of the excitement surrounding ACE is based upon the success of AlphaDogfight Trials and the promise of autonomous tactical air combat, the program is ultimately focused on developing a protocol for teaching humans to trust autonomy and to develop more advanced human-machine symbiosis.

“The award of these TA1 contracts represents the first step toward developing the AI side of that partnership,” he said.