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USAF Pilots Get An AI Assist With Aircrew Scheduling


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research team on the flight deck of a C-17 aircraft

Capt. Ronisha Carter, Amy Alexander, Capt. Lindsey McEvoy, Kendrick Cancio, Michael Snyder, Capt. Kyle McAlpin and 2d Lt. Matt Koch on the flight deck of a C-17 aircraft at Hickam Air Force Base.

A research team spanning the U.S. Department of the Air Force, the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed an AI-enabled plugin that automates crew scheduling for C-17 military cargo aircraft.

Scheduling crews for the 52 squadrons who operate C-17s was a pain point, says U.S. Air Force Captain Kyle McAlpin, an artificial intelligence research flight commander for the Department of Air Force–MIT AI Accelerator Program. "You could have a mission change and spend the next 12 hours of your life rebuilding a schedule that works," he says.

When is air space available? Who is available to fly given rest requirements, deployments, and vacations? Some pilots may not be certified for night flying or air refueling.

"You have a lot of data and factors and the information is so spread out. It's not something a human being can do in an efficient manner. That's where AI plays a role," says Hamsa Balakrishnan, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and principal investigator of the program.

Nearly 7,600 airmen are poised to use the technology once it is rolled out this summer.

From MIT Lincoln Laboratory
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