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This Autonomous Sailplane Glides Like A Bird

Aug 19, 2017 at 9:00 AM ET

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s both?

Microsoft researchers have developed an autonomous sailplane that glides in the air using an artificial intelligence system.

The real innovation is that this glider doesn’t require a motor or a human to operate it.  Instead it finds and catches rides on columns of air that rise due to heat, much like how a bird takes advantage of thermals to glide.

The system identifies temperature and wind direction and then makes real-time predictions of where to find the next wind pockets.

The Microsoft team says the infinite soaring machine could be used for various tasks including crop monitoring or mobile internet service.

Artificial intelligence researchers say the glider is much more complex than most systems being used today.

But for now, it’s still a work in progress.