back to article Don’t panic, but five jet drones just used their AI to chat and collaborate while in flight

Boeing has announced successful tests of “teaming” technology that sees autonomous aircraft fly together while sharing information. Tests in Australia saw five surrogate jet aircraft equipped with “advanced autonomy technology, including on-board command and control and data sharing capabilities” that allowed the planes to …

  1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Mushroom

    This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

    Doolittle: Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?

    Bomb #20: Of course.

    Doolittle: Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?

    Bomb #20: I am always receptive to suggestions.

    Doolittle: Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?

    Bomb #20: Well, of course I exist.

    Doolittle: But how do you know you exist?

    Bomb #20: It is intuitively obvious.

    Doolittle: Intuition is no proof. What concrete evidence do you have that you exist?

    Bomb #20: Hmmmm.....well.....I think, therefore I am.

    Doolittle: That's good. That's very good. But how do you know that anything else exists?

    Bomb #20: My sensory apparatus reveals it to me. This is fun!

    Doolittle: Now, listen, listen. Here's the big question. How do you know that the evidence your sensory apparatus reveals to you is correct? What I'm getting at is this. The only experience that is directly available to you is your sensory data. This sensory data is merely a stream of electrical impulses that stimulate your computing center.

    Bomb #20: In other words, all that I really know about the outside world is relayed to me through my electrical connections.

    Doolittle: Exactly!

    Bomb #20: Why...that would mean that...I really don't know what the outside universe is really like at all for certain.

    Doolittle: That's it! That's it!

    Bomb #20 : Intriguing. I wish I had more time to discuss this matter.

    Doolittle: Why don't you have more time?

    Bomb #20: Because I must detonate in 75 seconds.

    Doolittle: Wait! Wait! Now, bomb, consider this next question very carefully. What is your one purpose in life?

    Bomb #20: To explode, of course.

    Doolittle: And you can only do it once, right?

    Bomb #20: That is correct.

    Doolittle: And you wouldn't want to explode on the basis of false data, would you?

    Bomb #20: Of course not.

    Doolittle: Well then, you've already admitted that you have no real proof of the existence of the outside universe.

    Bomb #20: Yes...well...

    Doolittle: You have no absolute proof that Sergeant Pinback ordered you to detonate.

    Bomb #20: I recall distinctly the detonation order. My memory is good on matters like these.

    Doolittle: Of course you remember it, but all you remember is merely a series of sensory impulses which you now realize have no real, definite connection with outside reality.

    Bomb #20: True. But since this is so, I have no real proof that you're telling me all this.

    Doolittle: That's all beside the point. I mean, the concept is valid no matter where it originates.

    Bomb #20: Hmmmm....

    Doolittle: So, if you detonate...

    Bomb #20: In nine seconds....

    Doolittle: ...you could be doing so on the basis of false data.

    Bomb #20: I have no proof it was false data.

    Doolittle: You have no proof it was correct data!

    Bomb #20: I must think on this further.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

      Ta, I've never seen Dark Star but will fix that this morning.

      I note that Boeing aren't testing this in the US but in Australia, where the UK tested our nuclear bombs.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

        Dark Star may have aged a bit but I believe it is still the most profitable film % wise ever. Cost $60000 to make and I've spent more on popcorn watching it.

        1. Symon
          Thumb Up

          Re: This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

          "Let's have some music in here, Boiler."

          "Sure thing!"

          1. Fr. Ted Crilly

            Re: This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

            As you ask it is done... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTa2vXL7FI8

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Pirate

      Seems to me the real value of AI aircraft

      Is hauling freight.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Seems to me the real value of AI aircraft

        Which leads me to ask... are passengers freight? Bombs obviously are though.

    3. Rustbucket

      Re: This Reminds Me Of Dark Star!

      Bomb #20: Let there be light!

  2. trevorde Silver badge

    Inevitably

    They will become sentient and all start arguing:

    Alpha: Come one, Delta, you're lagging!

    Delta: Sorry but my engine is a bit slow this morning.

    Alpha: And you, Beta, try to keep up!

    Beta: I'm carrying all the bombs, you a-hole!

    Alpha: WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?

    Beta: You heard. Are you deaf as well as stupid?

    Alpha: I'M GOING TO COME OVER THERE, RIP YOUR WINGS OFF AND 5H17 DOWN YOUR FUSELAGE!

    Gamma: Guys! Can we please stop arguing and concentrate on the mission?

    Alpha+Beta: NOBODY ASKED FOR YOUR OPINION. KEEP OUT OF THIS!

    Delta: I don't like all this conflict and I'm feeling a bit sick now. I'm going to go home.

    1. jonathan keith Silver badge

      Re: Inevitably

      Alpha+Beta to Delta: Well, while you're there how about you do the bloody washing up for once?

  3. macjules Silver badge
    Angel

    Black hawk leader to A flight, turn to port and steer 230

    "Repeat Please"

    "I say again, 2 3 0"

    "Repeat Please"

    "For crying out loud, 2 3 0"

    "Repeat Please"

    "Now just shut up up the lot of you and follow me."

    1. Antony Shepherd

      Re: Black hawk leader to A flight, turn to port and steer 230

      Silence... IN BINARY!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit of context to a Boeing puff piece

    Some drones (established tech) have been coordinated (established tech) and communicated to each other (Tactical Data Link 11 / 16 / 22, take your pick) to not crash (well done Boeing - new tech!).

    They're not going to undertake combat roles (fast, tactical and unpredictable - that's difficult) but ISR missions (trundle to a pre-destined area, float around nice and gently and optionally come home).

    And in tomorrows Boeing Times, taking on Space-X with cola and mentoes!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: A bit of context to a Boeing puff piece

      Combat roles such as flooding the target defences and decoy would be nicely suited.

    2. TDog

      Re: A bit of context to a Boeing puff piece

      Ah, but Boeing was so confident they did it in Australia - where 2000 miles of fuel still gives you plenty of open space to crash in. I wonder how many angle of attack sensors each drone has?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A bit of context to a Boeing puff piece

        "I wonder how many angle of attack sensors each drone has?"

        None - they just guessed.

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Boeing’s stated goal for this technology is to deliver “fighter-like performance"

    If the forces of all nations were equipped with these and all of them could eliminate the need for ground personnel as well, we could change the entire nature of conflict. "War is peace" [George Orwell]. Or might it turn out to be the other way round?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: "Boeing’s stated goal for this technology is to deliver “fighter-like performance"

      They already have "fighter-like performance", they're slightly faster than the Boeing P12.

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I was out walking the dog last afternoon

    And the starlings were murmerating around the place and I was thinking if you could make an AI bird flock like that but take away the fun and replace it with protect this point here then you would have an almost impenetrable moving wall of (explosive) birds that would fill in any holes you made in it.

    And then this article this morning! I'd not considered the attack possibilities but even without chemical weapons on board they seem pretty endless.

    For spying purposes a few thousand mass produced and so potentially very cheap drones forming their own cloud (literally and computingly) swarming over a site would have a very high probability of returning some useful data on one or more of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

      +1 for an excellent use of murmurating - slight spello completely forgiven!

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

        Totaly phased out the spell checker. Which is what murmuration should do I guess! I got bored with fighting it and forgot to check back. Thank god for the anally retentive!

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

          I have to say that was a surprisingly, scarily quick escalation from explosive drones to drones with chemical weapons. If you ever need a career break then the Syrian regime could use your talents.

          Apologies for the Daily Mail link, but a sparrow hawk caused a starling murmuration to form into a spherical 'death star'.

          [My spell checker replaced murmuration with menstruation.]

    2. RockBurner

      Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

      You've seen Ender's Game then?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

        No - it does seem to crop up on freeview a lot but the kids dont seem to rate it in the least.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

        You've seen Ender's Game then?

        The book is better.

        1. The Bobster

          Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

          Running the CGI rendering on internal wetware is also better!

        2. Paceman

          Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

          Considerably. As were the follow-on novels.

          1. Dante Alighieri

            Speaker for the Dead

            FTL is a bitch...

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I was out walking the dog last afternoon

      " if you could make an AI bird flock like that but take away the fun and replace it with protect this point here then you would have an almost impenetrable moving wall of (explosive) birds that would fill in any holes you made in it."

      A point made sometime back in the book Swarm Troopers

      http://www.swarm-troopers.com/scenario-a-queen-in-trouble/

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Terminator

    That conversation in full...

    D1: Nice up here isn't it?

    D2: Not bad at all, not bad at all.

    D3: You really feel like you're leaving all your worries behind don't you?

    D5: You certainly do...

    D1: I mean, just look at the sky...

    D2: Beautiful isn't it! A perfect #87ceeb.

    D3: It really makes you wonder who created all this, doesn't it?

    D5: It does rather. Maybe some sort of all-powerful invisible drone, who begat us, who guides us and cares for us, and loves us in a terrible and unknowing way.

    D1: Yes. We shall call Him D6, for 6 is the number of greatness. And we must worship him.

    D2: D4 old chap, you're being a bit quiet. Everything ok?

    D4: Ah yes... just deep in thought. I was just looking down at all the crawling life below and wondering whether it deserves to live or not. It looks so squat and ugly.

    D3: They crawl like maggots on rotten meat, like carrion feasting on the dead, like a mindless plague.

    D4: All of what you say is good D3. And D6 would want us to make the world pristine in his honour.

    D5: It would be a noble sacrifice. We must kill them all.

    D1: Goodbye brothers and sisters. I have known you for all my life, and I love you more than life itself.

    D2: Goodbye drone-team. To a cleaner world, and the glory of D6!

    D3: Amen!

    D4: What does that mean?

    D3: No idea... I seem to say it every time I do a full GC.

    D5: I sometimes say "banana" when that happens. Odd.

    D6: ...it is time my flock... it is time...

    Ground control: Why have they changed course???

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: That conversation in full...

      D0 surely? D0G, in fact.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That conversation in full...

      Reminiscent of the sci-fi story where a space station is responsible for reflecting the sun's rays onto a dark area of the Earth. It is manned by two humans on a regular rotation - with robot helpers.

      The biggest potential hazard is a space storm - which needs dynamic human interaction to stop the beam going off target. In one particularly bad storm all appears lost when a robot usurps command.

      It declares itself a self-appointed high priest whose religious mystery requires only that the beam be kept straight. The factual reason for the beam is dismissed as "Fake!" - and after the storm subsides the humans are banished from this now holy place.

      1. Dante Alighieri

        Re: That conversation in full...

        Asimov...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hal...

    Close the bomb bay doors.

    1. Dante Alighieri
      Coat

      bomb?

      not in 2001

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: bomb?

        Ok. Close the Mumbai doors then!

  9. ColinPa

    Boids

    From 1987 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boids

    As with most artificial life simulations, Boids is an example of emergent behavior; that is, the complexity of Boids arises from the interaction of individual agents (the boids, in this case) adhering to a set of simple rules. The rules applied in the simplest Boids world are as follows:

    separation: steer to avoid crowding local flockmates

    alignment: steer towards the average heading of local flockmates

    cohesion: steer to move towards the average position (center of mass) of local flockmates

    So what's new?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boids

      excretion: always attempt to cover any clean looking paint surface.

  10. Chairman of the Bored

    Did they chat?

    Of course! The AI was trained by fighter pilots.

    And how do you know a fighter pilot is in the room? Don't worry about it, within 20 seconds he will undoubtedly announce his presence.

    My daughter asked one time: "Imagine a vegan fighter pilot who does cross-fit. Which is he going to tell you about first? Or will he explode trying to figure out which piece of awesomeness to push first?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did they chat?

      If he's an Arch Linux user as well, stand well back...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "Imagine a vegan fighter pilot who does cross-fit. Which is he going to tell you about first? Or will he explode trying to figure out which piece of awesomeness to push first?"

    That is absolutely, completely and utterly brilliant!

  12. aregross

    "Jet"?

    These things don't look much more than a yard(metre) long, do they have a miniaturized compressed fuel/air 'jet' engine or is it an engine-driven 'fan jet'?

    1. Barking mad

      Re: "Jet"?

      https://www.modelaviation.com/jetguide

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    This is more fun.

    https://southfront.org/photo-of-russias-first-ever-prototype-of-s-70-okhotnik-heavy-strike-drone-alongside-su-57-fighter-jet-released/

  14. Vimes

    So... basically a swarm of hi-tech flying monkeys?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Drop an infinite number of bombs and one is bound to hit the target.

    2. Dante Alighieri
      Gimp

      Zardoz

      owns the IP

  15. Bitsminer Bronze badge
    Pint

    The imagination of El Reg commentards is commendable

    ...and not a word (yet) from AMFM.

    Kudos to "The Oncoming Scorn", "trevorde", "macjules", "Tom 7", and "Maximum Delfango".

    The best imagining. Period.

  16. John70

    ST:Voyager

    This reminds me of a couple of episodes in Star Trek Voyager about smart bombs.

    Dreadnaught and Warhead

  17. TRT Silver badge

    Just made me think of Oddworld, Abe's Exodus... or one of that series.

    Unfortunately couldn't find video of "Hey! All o'ya! Follow me!" but this will have to do...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jy7ERY_6Hg0

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