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Congress races to research AI-enhanced drones to maintain national security edge over China

The bill, which passes the House of Representatives, would provide millions of dollars for research on how to incorporate artificial intelligence into drone technology, with the goal of getting the U.S. ahead of China on an increasingly important element of national security.

The House Science and Space Technology Committee last week approved a bill by Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), which he said needed to pass before China was cemented as the world’s leading drone supplier. claims that there is His bill, the National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Research and Development Act, would provide about $1.6 billion in research funding over the next five years to boost U.S.-based drone manufacturers.

“To say China has cornered this market is an understatement,” Lucas said last week. “One company with extensive ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army produces 80% of the drones used for recreational purposes in the United States.”

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A staff member works on an unmanned aerial vehicle at Guizhou University in Guiyang, China, May 23, 2023. (Liu Xu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Lucas said 90% of U.S. local and regional public security agencies use Chinese-made unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which could pose a threat in the future due to their ability to track user data. added that there is

The bill authorizes NASA, Homeland Security, and several scientific institutions to provide new funding for drone and advanced air mobility research. It also directs these government agencies to fund research into how AI and machine learning can enhance the capabilities of drones.

Dr. Jamie Jacob is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Research and Education Institute and Director of the UAS Center of Excellence at Oklahoma State University. He told Fox News Digital this week that the U.S. and China are in fierce competition for drone technology.

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Congressman Frank Lucas

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) passed the Drones and Advanced Air Mobility Research Act from his committee last week. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)

“There’s a lot of competition going on right now,” he said. “We still think he’s definitely ahead in AI development in terms of algorithms. “

He added that while the U.S. has the upper hand in high-end unmanned aerial vehicle technology, “China is coming after us.”

AI capabilities are already present in current drones made by both the US and China, but are something that both countries may enhance in the future. Jacob said today’s drones with AI components can already receive visual input and use that input to avoid colliding with trees and other obstacles.

It is hoped that stronger AI will enable drones to navigate hostile environments, including zones where GPS navigation is not possible.

“This is the possibility of GPS denials, GPS spoofing and jamming, enemies trying to trick the drone into thinking it is not where it really is, and AI getting all of this information. It’s really working in an active threat environment where there is: understand what’s good and what’s not,” he said.

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Dr. Jamie Jacob

Dr. Jamie Jacob is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Research and Education Institute and Director of the UAS Center of Excellence at Oklahoma State University. (Oklahoma State University)

In the past, the Pentagon has said it wants to make sure AI is used to help people make better military decisions. But Jacob said the possibility of using AI to give drones the ability to decide when to deploy weapons is already being talked about.

“We know it is possible and it will happen,” he said. “We intend to enable drones and AI-driven autopilot systems to make decisions faster than humans.”

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Last week, the House Committee on Science and Space Technology approved Lucas’ bill 36-0, with both Republicans and Democrats strongly supporting the idea of ​​stepping up research into drones and advanced air mobility. It indicates that his bill may pass. A vote will be held on the floor later this year.

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