Boeing and Shield AI to partner on autonomous capability development

By Shelley K. Mesch / March 9, 2023 at 11:39 AM

DENVER -- Boeing and Shield AI have signed an agreement to collaborate on autonomous capability development and artificial intelligence on defense programs, the companies announced Wednesday at the Air and Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium.

Boeing’s Phantom Works division will work with the software company -- which created an AI pilot called Hivemind -- according to a news release from Boeing.

“Boeing continues to leverage talent from across the enterprise to make great strides in autonomous capabilities and programs in recent years,” Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager for Boeing’s Air Dominance organization, said in the news release. “Collaborating with Shield AI, the leader in AI pilots, will accelerate our ability to deliver these capabilities to the warfighter.”

Shield AI ran an in-flight test of Hivemind on a modified F-16 in December, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

During a panel discussion at the symposium Wednesday on the Collaborative Combat Aircraft concept, Shield AI director of product Mike Benitez talked about the importance of developing capable AI if the Air Force is going to move forward toward its early estimate of 1,000 CCAs.

Uncrewed aircraft today require about four times as many people to operate than their crewed counterparts, Benitez said.

“The unmanned, remotely piloted fleet that we have today is certainly manpower intensive,” Benitez said. “It has not delivered on the promise that the past two-and-a-half generations have promised that we’re going to take the man out of the cockpit, we’re going to save on manpower.”

AI needs to be leveraged to cut down on manpower, Benitez said, if the service is going to successfully scale an autonomous fleet that can team with crewed aircraft under the CCA plan.