Real Pilot Battles Virtual Aircraft In “World’s First” AR Dogfight

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Could live-flight AR exercises be the future of air combat training?

According to the United States Air Force President’s Budget FY21, the FY 2021 Air Force Operation & Maintenance (O&M) budget includes a staggering $770M increase from its 2020 funding. After all, supporting an entire division of the United States military isn’t cheap, especially one that revolves around the control and upkeep of almost 1,500 cutting-edge warplanes.

This is especially true when it comes to training pilots, which can often times be an expensive and inconvenient process. Most existing training procedures involve airmen-in-training flying against “adversary aircrafts,” real warplanes operated by real pilots which serve as the “foreign threat” during live combat exercises. The amount of time, money, and resources that go into coordinating these types of training are considerable, which is why Red 6 and EpiSci have teamed up to develop a new form of air combat training that’s as bad-ass as it is cost-effective.

First spotted by The Drive, the two companies recently completed an initial test-run of their revolutionary training program, which uses AR technology and artificial intelligence to provide pilots with a virtual enemy that responds and reacts realistically to their movements as well as the environment, offering a cheaper, more convenient form of pilot training.

Labeled as the “world’s first” AR dogfight by Red 6 and EpiSci, this first test had a pilot stepping into a Freeflight Composites Berkut 560 experimental plane. Once air-born, a virtual adversary was then projected over the pilots real-world view via a custom AR helmet-mounted display, allowing him to engage in a realistic dogfight against a simulated Chinese J-20 stealth fighter powered by EpiSci’s hybrid AI system.

“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,” said Chris Gentile, EpiSci’s Vice President for Tactical Autonomous Systems, according to The Drive. “While fielding autonomous systems that control fighters may be in the future, this system is ready now to bring next-generation capability to our training programs, providing immediate benefit to the USAF’s ability to develop and maintain world-class fighter pilots. By introducing them to this technology now, they’ll be even more prepared to use a range of unmanned tools in the future.”

Apparently, this initial test run also involved the use of Red 6’s Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATAR), which uses AR technology to help manage the transfer of crucial data and imagery between the aircraft and command.

“Red 6’s ATARS system enables real pilots to fly real airplanes connected together in an augmented world,” explained Dan Robinson, CEO and founder of Red 6. “With the additional integration of Tactical AI into our platform, we are now able to interact and respond to any threat aircraft. This opens spectacular possibilities for training,” Robinson added. Robinson was at the controls of the real aircraft in the mock dogfight.

For more information on this groundbreaking AR dogfight, visit here.

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p class=”has-text-align-center”>Image Credit: Mike Killian

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