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Drone with AI Under Development

The Royal Australian Air Force has taken delivery of a prototype of a jet-powered drone, which relies on artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft.  The hope is that these drones, manufactured by Boeing Australia, may one day fly into battle alongside manned warplanes.

The Loyal Wingman, at 38-foot-long (11.5 meters) and with a range of 2,000 miles (3,218.6 kilometers), will "use artificial intelligence to fly independently, or in support of manned aircraft, while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft," according to Boeing's website on the project.

Boeing says that the drones will be able to engage in electronic warfare as well as intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions and swap quickly among those roles.

The aircraft delivered Tuesday in Sydney is the first of three prototypes Boeing is producing.

Former RAAF Air Marshal Leo Davies discussed in an interview with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute how a drone with artificial intelligence would interact with human pilots.  "We can program it to learn, but it learns linearly, it is not emotional.  It is in many respects, in an air combat sense, quite inflexible," Davies said.  "When we look at a pilot's ability to assess the situation, that brings with it an amount of emotion and creativity that allows us to be agile.  We need the flexibility and agility of the human meshed with the speed of a machine.  When we put those together, we've got a quite amazing outcome."