Original article was published on artificial intelligence
Portions of the Skyborg technology suite could also have applications on existing manned aircraft, as well. For years now, the U.S. military, as a whole, has also been exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities as a way to reduce the workload pilots in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, as well as other platforms at sea and on land, which, as a way to improve operational efficiency, survivability, and general safety.
“I might eventually decide, ‘I want that AI in my own cockpit,'” Roper said last year. “So, if something happened immediately, [Skyborg] could take hold, make choices in a way that [a pilot would] know because [a pilot has] trained with it.”
Initially, though, the Air Force plans to pair Skyborg, which is part of a larger Science and Technology for Autonomous Teammates (STAT) effort, with a loyal wingman drone that is intended to work together in networked groups along with manned aircraft and is “attritable.” This means that the unmanned aircraft in question would be reusable, not expendable, but would also be relatively low-cost enough that the service would be more willing to operate it in riskier environments where there is a higher than likely probability of it not coming back.
Kratos’ XQ-58A Valkyrie, which the Air Force has been experimenting with as part of the separate Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) program, has been mentioned in the past as a possible platform to carry initial Skyborg prototypes. However, the SPEAD project also includes plans to hold an open competition to acquire a fleet of “Skyborg Air Vehicles,” which is almost certain to garner proposals from other firms.