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A team of researchers has developed an artificial intelligence that can outperform and beat human pilots in combat. The new AI, called ALPHA, was tested in flight simulations, with the results published in the Journal of Defence Management. The AI was assessed in a simulator by an expert in combat tactics, retired US Air Force Colonel Gene Lee.

“It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed,” Lee said after the first test.

According to Lee, most AI systems can be beaten by experienced human pilots. During simulated engagement with ALPHA, however, Lee didn’t manage to score a single kill and was repeatedly shot down.

It is “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I’ve seen to date,” said Lee, who has been a test pilot since the 80s.

Aside from Lee, ALPHA has beaten a few other experts, too, even with given handicaps in turning, sensors, missiles, and speed.

ALPHA is based on algorithms created Kelly Cohen and Nick Ernest at the University of Cincinnati and is being developed by Psibernetix. Ernest, now the company’s CEO, says that “the goal is to continue developing ALPHA, to push and extend its capabilities, and perform additional testing against other trained pilots.”

ALPHA runs on a regular $500 desktop computer due to its efficient algorithms. Nevertheless, it can process data from sensors and “plan combat moves for four drones in less than a millisecond,” Forbes reports. This represents reaction times far faster than any human is capable of.

Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, autonomous drones could replace human pilots in the air.