An artificial intelligence agent recently flew the Lockheed Martin VISTA X-62A training aircraft for over 17 hours. VISTA (which stands for Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft) can use software to simulate the performance characteristics of other aircraft. On this occasion, it mimicked a human pilot instead.
The flight took place during a testing period in December. This is the first time that AI has been engaged in such a way on a tactical aircraft, Lockheed says. The aim is to use the platform to test aircraft designs that can be flown autonomously.
"VISTA will allow us to parallelize the development and test of cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques with new uncrewed vehicle designs," US Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) director of research Dr. M. Christopher Cotting said in a statement. "This approach, combined with focused testing on new vehicle systems as they are produced, will rapidly mature autonomy for uncrewed platforms and allow us to deliver tactically relevant capability to our warfighter."
Lockheed's skunk works division worked with Calspan to build VISTA for the USAF TPS at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Among other things, the VISTA program has been used to develop the virtual heads-up display and voice command input system for the F-35 Lightning II.
The USAF recently upgraded the VISTA X-62A with Lockheed's Model Following Algorithm (MFA) and System for Autonomous Control of the Simulation (SACS). When integrated, these systems help VISTA carry out advanced flight tests that harness autonomy and AI.