In addition to ATARS, Red 6 has grown its synthetic air combat training platform into a larger digital ecosystem that includes the Combined Augmented Reality Battlespace Operational Network, or CARBON, and the Augmented Reality Command and Analytic Data Environment, or ARCADE. The ATARS capability itself has evolved in the last five years from rendering refueling tankers, aircraft opponents such as the Chinese J-20 and the Russian Su-57, and other digital assets midair to provide an even more complex synthetic environment. These are enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) that can be tailored to pilots’ individual skills.
“There are three fundamental ways to control these entities,” Dan Robinson, founder and CEO of Red 6, clarified. “One is to do prescriptive behavior … with a given set of performance parameters. The second way is to control them virtually, put a pilot in a virtual reality headset on the ground, flying avatars of themselves in real space against those up in the airplanes. The third way is fully autonomous AI. I can tell you now that the test pilots on a daily basis are [flying against] fully autonomous AI algorithms that are thinking, fighting, flying for themselves.”
The AI capability was shaped by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-developed technologies, Robinson noted. “We have been doing that in conjunction with some of the companies coming out of the DARPA programs, the Alpha Dog-Fight Ace Program, autonomous AI,” the Red 6 CEO stated. “We’ve been leveraging a lot of that work to inform our own AI algorithms.”
The algorithmic capabilities offer flexibility and adaptability to pilots’ skill levels and strengths/weaknesses. And the bespoke nature of the ATARS perhaps means less pilots dropping out, Robinson continued.
“There is an interesting thing there around the efficiency in the production of pilots,” Robinson said. “Historically, the way we’ve done is we go into a syllabus and all pilots start together, and we’d all graduate on certain days. What I’ve argued strenuously with this technology, is that not all pilots are created equal. Whereas one pilot, I may be terrible at basic fighter maneuvers. [Others] may be fantastic at that and need only one look at the problem, whereas I would need three, four or five looks at the problem. So what we can do now with this, in conjunction with AI and the ability to customize sorties, is we can maybe divert more resources to a student that may be lacking. And by [giving them] one, two three or four extra looks at the problem set, we may graduate that pilot rather than lose them.”
The Orlando region, meanwhile, has become a center for modeling and simulation, and augmented, virtual and mixed reality companies and military organizations. The city has seen more such businesses relocating to the area, including Red 6, which moved its headquarters from California to Orlando earlier this year. The area is already home to Navy, Marine Corps and Army simulation and training offices.
“Orlando is home to some of the biggest names in AR/VR and XR simulations [augmented reality, virtual reality and extended reality] and we are metaverse ready,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Thanks to their physical location in Orlando, where the Internet of Things, AI, modeling and simulation and training are establishing the metacenter…. I couldn’t be more delighted to support the working collaboration between one of our coolest local companies, Red 6, and one of the world’s largest defense contractors, BAE Systems.”
The new collaboration with BAE builds on Red 6’s recent agreement with The Boeing Company. Those two companies announced in September that Boeing would start testing out ATARS on its TA-4 aircraft in October, with the intention for possible use on other Boeing platforms, such as the T-7 and the F-15EX.
BAE’s Walton indicated that ATARS could very well be placed on aircraft across BAE’s full product line.
“Working with Red 6 takes this capability a step further for the pilots of tomorrow, by bringing constructed adversaries, wingmen and surface threats into the training space at a fraction of the cost and emissions of the live equivalent,” BAE stated.