What do we think of when we think of Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short? Specifically within the aerospace industry, the list is probably pretty visual and flamboyant, and shaped by films or narrative works of art:
Stanley Kubrick’s murderous HAL computer slowly having a battle of wits with his astronaut companion Dave?
The rogue Replicants tussling with Harrison Ford in Blade Runner?
The cute and sassy droids of Star Wars?
When most of us think of artificial intelligence we think of autonomous beings marching around and speaking, just like humans.
But the reality is a bit more complicated, and artificial intelligence is actually in use today, and you likely interact with it on a daily basis: Have you ever used voice recognition technology like Siri on the iPhone? Ever had an email address or website-based phrase autocomplete for you? Ever had a film recommended to you by a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix?
These are all examples of artificial intelligence. As it’s used now, artificial intelligence is most often utilized by augmenting human capabilities, rather than replacing or replicating them. The reality is less sentient robots causing drama, and more computers making life easier for humans. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Artificial Intelligence, broadly, as such:
“[T]he ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.”
An excellent example of how AI is in use today, is at Amazon, specifically in their recommended products. For more than a decade, Amazon has built itself into one of the most profitable companies in the world predicting what products users might want based on personal profiles and past purchasing history.
The aerospace industry is no different. Don’t expect to see sentient and near-living robots flying planes or piloting spaceships anytime soon, rather, look for more subtle forms of AI helping pilots and other aerospace professionals—including in manufacturing—complete work with more timeliness and accuracy.
“AI is set to change the aerospace industry,” according to the MIT Technology Review,”—but won’t be flying planes anytime soon”
Based on a conversation with Boeing CTO Greg Hyslop at the annual EM Tech Conference held by the publication, Artificial intelligence won’t be replacing humans, per se, but rather helping humans to do their jobs and daily tasks with more efficiency, accuracy and assurance.
“We use AI in air travel already, but it’s limited. But think again what we could do with more sensors on the airplane. Could we do a take-off in an environment where weather conditions mean a pilot wouldn’t be able to? With sensors, with AI, you could,” Hyslop said, as reported by MIT Technology Review. “How do we maintain the existing levels of safety with an AI-based system in the cockpit? How do you show and certify that your systems are safe to point where the flying public will say ‘Yes, I trust that’? Those are very difficult problems to solve.”
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