In 2020, a small team of developers from Heron Systems entered a competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that pitted a military pilot with 2000 hours of flying experience against AI designed to fly a simulated plane.
The results of what was called “AlphaDogfight” were conclusive – 5 to 0 in favor of the Heron System’s AI, which was able to maneuver and target in real-time faster than its human counterpart.
Heron Systems was purchased in 2021 by another military tech startup called Shield AI.
Shield AI was founded in 2015 by brothers Brandon and Ryan Tseng – Brandon a former Navy SEAL and Ryan a tech guru.
While serving in Afghanistan, Brandon envisioned a future where tiny drones could enter buildings before soldiers to give advanced warning of dangers.
Now, years later and combined with some of the tech from Heron, Shield AI is valued at $2.7 billion and is developing advanced reconnaissance drones for use on the battlefield.
These include tiny drones capable of indoor use and larger drones that can be deployed in groups to provide real-time battlefield tracking of enemy combatants.
AI pulls the data from the drones into a computer that is able to analyze input and display the results for battlefield commanders.
The drones are actively being utilized by Israel in the fight against Hamas.
However, the US military is being more cautious in its approach to the technology.
Shield AI is losing money despite its high valuation which is dependent on convincing the Pentagon to commit to its tech.
Many fear that the Pentagon’s wait-and-see approach leaves the country vulnerable to smaller players who invest heavily in advanced AI weaponry.
There can be no doubt that AI will be a major factor in any future wars and the shift from human reconnaissance to autonomous devices will continue.