The U.S. Air Force is finally pushing into the world of robot combat drones, vowing to fly the first of its “Skyborg” drones by 2023. The service envisions Skyborg as a merging of artificial intelligence with jet-powered drones. The result will be drones capable of flying alongside fighter jets, carrying out dangerous missions. Skyborg drones will be much cheaper than piloted aircraft, allowing the Air Force to grow its fleet at a lower cost.
The Air Force, according to Defense News, will award a total of $400 million to one or more companies to develop different types of Skyborg drones. The drones will be “attritable”, meaning they will be designed to fly multiple flights, but the Air Force won’t sweat it if it loses one. The drones are expected to fly in 2023.
Skyborg was originally conceived as a flying artificial intelligence. Skyborg was meant to operate either as part of a piloted fighter, providing an R2-D2-type assistant to a human pilot, or as an AI flying an autonomous drone on its own. Under its current iteration, the Skyborg AI will fly a high performance, fighter-like drone.