AI Just “Landed” a Boeing 737 for the First Time By Itself

An AI-driven robot has successfully flown and landed a simulated Boeing 737 for the first time.

ALIAS
Image source: Aurora Flight Science

It's going to take us a healthy dollop of faith in technology to accept autonomous vehicles at some point on our roadways. But what about in our skies? The thought of robot-driven planes ferrying hundreds of people overhead to their destinations conjures images of metal, fire, and passengers raining down from the skies. Still, proponents of such systems believe autonomous transport of all kinds, including commercial flight, will be less prone to error when humans are removed from the equation. Once the bugs have been worked out, of course.

The U.S. military believe automated aircraft may improve mission safety and success rates, and their Defense Advanced Research Agency, or DARPA, has just announced the successful simulated flight and landing of a Boeing 737 by an AI-driven robot co-pilot named ALIAS. “ALIAS" is an acronym for “Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System."

DARPA hopes ALIAS can eventually be trusted with the “execution of an entire mission from takeoff to landing, even in the face of contingency events such as aircraft system failures."

ALIAS was built for DARPA by Aurora Flight Sciences, “a leader in the development and manufacturing of advanced unmanned systems and aerospace vehicles," according to their website. It goes far beyond existing autopilot systems that are limited to assisting a human pilot in flying a plane in-between the critical takeoff and landing phases.

ALIAS has, broadly speaking, three components:

  • A camera that can see and read all of the cockpit's instruments and gauges.
  • AI-driven software that uses machine learning to acquire the knowledge needed to operate the aircraft. It also has access to a database of knowledge gained by other ALIAS installations.
  • A robotic arm that can operate all of the cockpit's controls, and thus the plane.
  • (AURORA FLIGHT SCIENCES)

    ALIAS has previously been tested in a real Cessna Caravan.

    (AURORA FLIGHT SCIENCES)

    ALIAS has also flown a Diamond DA42 light aircraft and a Bell UH-1 helicopter.

    Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 (DIAMOND AIRCRAFT/BELL HELICOPTER)

    No, the Yellowstone supervolcano is not ‘overdue’

    Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.

    Ash deposits of some of North America's largest volcanic eruptions.

    Image: USGS - public domain
    Strange Maps
    • The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
    • Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
    • The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
    Keep reading Show less

    Smartly dressed: Researchers develop clothes that sense movement via touch

    Measuring a person's movements and poses, smart clothes could be used for athletic training, rehabilitation, or health-monitoring.

    Technology & Innovation

    In recent years there have been exciting breakthroughs in wearable technologies, like smartwatches that can monitor your breathing and blood oxygen levels.

    Keep reading Show less

    Do you worry too much? Stoicism can help

    How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.

    Stoicism can help overcome anxiety

    Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images
    Personal Growth
    • Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
    • It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
    • By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast