Skip to Content

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.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.

“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.

What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines

New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.

Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats

With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure

Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation

From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.