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Microsoft Is Training AI Gliders to Fly Themselves

August 16, 2017

Last week in the Nevada desert, Microsoft researchers threw a glider into the air, then left it to its own devices hoping that it would fly for hours. But they’re not as foolhardy as they sound: the New York Times reports that their Styrofoam aircraft is loaded with AI to study data from onboard sensors, predict conditions, and seek out thermals to keep it aloft. The long-term goal: to have the aircraft fly for days to track weather or deliver Internet to rural areas. That's much like the aim of Alphabet’s Project Loon, which also uses AI to help control its stratospheric balloons. But the Loon balloons can only use inflation to move up or down: Microsoft’s glider has far more decisions (and turns) to make in order to stay aloft.

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