DARPA’s ACE Program

Ventus personnel played an integral role in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) AlphaDogfight trials in 2020, which culminated in a widely covered three-day competition designed to demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms capable of performing simulated, within-visual-range air combat maneuvering – commonly known as a dogfight. Eight participating companies – ranging from major defense contractors to a four-person firm – spent less than a year developing and teaching their AI agents how to fly and excel in simulated aerial combat. The final event concluded with the top AI agent competing in a series of simulated dogfights against an experienced Air Force F-16 pilot in a flight simulator – winning 5-0 through aggressive and precise maneuvers the human pilot couldn’t outmatch. The trials were designed to energize and expand a base of AI developers for DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE seeks to automate air-to-air combat and build human trust in AI as a step toward improved human-machine teaming. VES personnel are supporting the larger ACE program, which recently entered Phase 2 of a multi-year effort that will conclude with live flight testing of air combat autonomy and real-time assessment of pilot trust in AI.

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