Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s latest toy is a high-speed autonomous aircraft

Palmer Luckey, the Trump-thumping founder of the Oculus virtual reality headset, is entering the world of autonomous military aircraft. On Thursday, Anduril, Lucky’s venture-funded military technology company, unveiled its new AI-enabled, autonomous, fighter-jet-looking aircraft, which the company has dubbed the “Fury.” Enduril says it plans to integrate Fury into its “Lattice” AI surveillance system, which is currently being deployed along the US border to act as a “virtual wall”. Anduril’s announcement comes amid a renewed push by the US Department of Defense to mass-produce cheaper, newer AI systems.

Introducing Fury: Anduril’s Group 5 Autonomous Air Vehicle

The Fury aircraft was actually designed and manufactured by another company called Blue Force Technologies, which Anduril officially acquired on Thursday for an undisclosed sum. Enduril defines the Fury as a Group-5 level (this is the highest level) autonomous aircraft capable of “fighter-like performance”. Anduril says the aircraft, which is capable of reaching speeds of more than 700 miles per hour, can be equipped with a variety of sensors and payloads depending on the mission’s needs. Based on that description, it seems the Fury could be deployed for both surveillance and combat operations. In a press release, Enduril pointed to the US Department of Defense as a potential partner.

“These new capabilities are critical to maintaining deterrence in an era of strategic competition,” the company said. “To project power, deter aggression, and regain affordable mass, the DoD will have to rely heavily on smaller, lower-cost, more autonomous systems.”

“Its (Anduril’s) objective is to support the Department of Defense and allied military services in fielding autonomous and artificially intelligent systems as quickly as possible,” the company added.

DOD spokesman Jeff Jurgensen told Gizmodo that the agency could not comment when asked whether Anduril had been contacted about the Fury plane.

“The department does not comment on specific M&A matters or potential, future contractual actions,” Jurgensen said. “As a result, we have no information or statement to provide.”

Enduril did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Enduril is trying to cash in on the AI ​​arms race

Enduril plans to integrate the Fury aircraft into its Lattice system, which acts as an AI-powered control center that oversees its many connected military technology tools. According to an Anduril blog post, human operators can log into Lattice to control teams of robotic assets. The company believes that this collection of autonomous systems can work together through data faster and more accurately than human operators. A version of Lattice is currently integrated into a collection of large monitoring towers spanning the US-Mexico border. Customs and Border Patrol use 100 of the towers to monitor border crossers.

While it’s unclear whether the U.S. military specifically wants to buy Enduril’s Fury aircraft, Pentagon leaders have generally expressed a desire to increase the military’s autonomous capabilities. During a speech first seen by the Wall Street Journal this week, DOD Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said the Pentagon intends to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the coming years to produce thousands of air, land and sea fleets. based AI system. The initiative, dubbed Project Replicator, is a means of maintaining a technological edge with the Chinese military.

“We are not at war,” Hicks said during the speech. “We don’t want to go to war, but we have to be able to move this division as quickly as the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is not waiting,” he said.

The DoD is not new to autonomous systems. DARPA, the Pentagon’s ambitious research and development arm, has for decades paved the way for the advancement of self-driving cars, autonomous helicopters and autonomous, dog-fighting fighter jets. Still, critics have charged that the agency has been slow to deploy these systems in active combat operations due to cost and ethical concerns over AI accountability. But he can be primed to change his somewhat cautious approach.

In a recent interview with Breaking Defense, Lucky said he believes the recent cultural explosion of interest in AI brought on by OpenAI’s ChatGPT has led to increased interest in Anduril’s AI military tech from government leaders and politicians who were once reluctant to embrace or uninterested in the technology.

“It sounds crazy, but it’s so true,” Lucky said. “There are a lot of people in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill who are having a Jesus moment because of the hype cycle around ChatGPT, and I’m excited to get them excited about the future.”

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