DARPA Is Developing The Ultimate Autopilot System

It can do the jobs of five crew members.

DARPA Is Developing The Ultimate Autopilot System
[Image: Flickr user 6SN7]

One of the problems the military faces with several decades of working aircraft is that the command interfaces are all slightly different, therefore requiring them to be manned by different people. But now, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will soon debut a new “ultimate auto-pilot program” that, with any luck, will allow a single pilot to do the jobs of five crew members on a given mission.

The new system is called ALIAS, which stands for Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. Its main goal is to streamline the incredibly complex interfaces that avionics operators have to contend with on a daily basis, and make lives easier for people flying jets. “Our goal is to design and develop a full-time automated assistant that could be rapidly adapted to help operate diverse aircraft through an easy-to-use operator interface,” said DARPA program manager Daniel Patt in a statement. “These capabilities could help transform the role of pilot from a systems operator to a mission supervisor directing intermeshed, trusted, reliable systems at a high level.”

One key focus we’re seeing in today’s military technology is reducing the workload of soldiers to make day-to-day operations safer. ALIAS will attempt to do so by integrating simple touch and voice commands, which will take over for complex tasks, like landing an airplane or piloting it to a distant destination. In theory, ALIAS will one day be able to take over planned missions from beginning to end, allowing the pilot to act more like a mission manager, issuing out commands. ALIAS will be revealed at a conference scheduled for May 14.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.



More Stories