"Thinking" Aircraft Passes Test

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Just who's in charge of the next generation of aircraft could be open to debate. NASA has recently completed a crucial part of testing an F-15 that learns as it flies and can think for itself in emergencies. The Intelligent Flight Control System research is developing "self-learning" neural-network software for aircraft flight-control computers. During recent tests, the system was able to identify stability and control characteristics and tuck that information away in its memory banks. The theory goes that if it suffers some kind of malfunction in the future, it will be able to go back to that flight data gleaned from "normal" flight and take whatever steps are necessary to restore stable flight. "This work marks a significant step toward learning, thinking aircraft that will be safer, more autonomous and more reliable than ever before," said project manager John Carter.