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Watch AI-controlled virtual fighters take on an Air Force pilot on August 18th

DARPA's final AlphaDogfight Trial will take place online due to COVID-19.
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TebNad via Getty Images

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, DARPA will no longer hold an in-person event for its third and final AlphaDogfight Trial that’s scheduled to take place from August 18th to the 20th. It’ll be held virtually instead, and both participants and viewers alike can watch online as artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms control simulated F-16 fighter planes in aerial combat. By the end of the three-day event, viewers will even get to witness a matchup between the top AI and an experienced Air Force fighter pilot who’ll also be controlling a virtual F-16.

The Department of Defense agency started the AlphaDogfight Trials to expand its base of AI developers under the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE’s purpose is to automate air-to-air combat and to build human pilots’ trust in artificial intelligence, so they can fight side-by-side in the future. The first trial, which was held in November 2019, featured algorithms in early development.

DARPA held the second trial in January this year and pitted participants’ greatly improved algorithms against AI adversaries developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Both trials were hosted in person at the APL.

The third trial will be streamed from the APL, as well, with eight teams flying against the lab’s AI adversary algorithms on the first day and then against each other in a round robin tournament on the second. It’s the first time the participants are pitting their AIs against one another in public. On the last day, the top four AIs will compete in a single-elimination tournament for the championship title. The last team standing will then get the chance to fly against an Air Force fighter pilot controlling a virtual plane.

Col. Dan “Animal” Javorsek, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, said in a statement:

“Regardless of whether the human or machine wins the final dogfight, the AlphaDogfight Trials is all about increasing trust in AI. If the champion AI earns the respect of an F-16 pilot, we’ll have come one step closer to achieving effective human-machine teaming in air combat, which is the goal of the ACE program.”

Teams from Aurora Flight Sciences, EpiSys Science, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Heron Systems, Lockheed Martin, Perspecta Labs, PhysicsAI and SoarTech make up the eight participants for trial 3. Interested viewers will have to register beforehand to able to tune in: US citizens have until August 17th to sign up, while everyone else has until August 11th.

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