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The U.S. Air Force and MIT Sign Agreement to Enable Rapid Deployment of Artificial Intelligence Innovations

The U.S. Air Force and MIT have inked an agreement to introduce an innovative program that is specifically designed to make key developments in artificial intelligence (AI) that is not only expected to enhance Air Force operations but also address broader societal requirements.

Image credit: Jake Belcher

The effort, called the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will exploit the resources and expertise of the Air Force and MIT to perform important studies aimed at facilitating quick prototyping, scaling, and use of AI systems and algorithms. In this regard, the Air Force intends to invest about $15 million per annum as it builds upon its 50 years of partnership with MIT.

It is anticipated that the collaboration will support a minimum of 10 MIT research projects dealing with challenges that are crucial to the Air Force and to the society at large, like medical readiness and disaster response.

This collaboration is very much in line with MIT’s core value of service to the nation. MIT researchers who choose to participate will bring state-of-the-art expertise in AI to advance Air Force mission areas and help train Air Force personnel in applications of AI.

Maria Zuber, Vice President for Research and the E.A Griswold Professor of Geophysics, MIT

As part of the agreement, MIT will create interdisciplinary teams of faculty, students, and researchers whose work concentrates on topics in control theory, artificial intelligence, formal techniques, perception, robotics, and machine learning, among other domains. Leaders in ethics, history, and technology policy from various centers, departments, and laboratories across the Institute will also form part of the teams. Air Force members will join and share their expertise with each team.

MIT is the leading institution for AI research, education, and application, making this a huge opportunity for the Air Force as we deepen and expand our scientific and technical enterprise. Drawing from one of the best of American research universities is vital.

Heather Wilson, Secretary, Air Force

The AI Accelerator can include students, staff, and faculty in all the five schools of MIT, and will be a part of the latest MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing that will be introduced this fall. Furthermore, the college will adopt a robustly interdisciplinary strategy to computing, and will concentrate on the societal implications of AI and computing.

MIT’s Beaver Works facility—an innovation center situated in the Technology Square block of Kendall Square—will house the MIT-Air Force program. The U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development center—MIT Lincoln Laboratory—will provide its dedicated resources and facilities to support the requirements of Air Force mission.

Our objective is to advance the underlying science behind AI and facilitate societal applications, including helping create solutions in fields like disaster relief and medical preparedness that are of interest to the Air Force. We plan to assemble interdisciplinary teams that will collaborate across disparate fields of AI to create new algorithms and solutions.

Daniela Rus, Director, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT

Rus is also the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The aim of the AI Accelerator research program would be to create novel systems and algorithms to help challenging decision-making that can possibly assist the Air Force, for instance, to better focus its maintenance efforts that happen to be a crucial and costly part of its aircraft operations. In addition, this important research aims to develop AI to help humans in aspects of control, planning, and other challenging tasks. Finally, the research program is aiming to allow quick deployment of sophisticated capabilities and algorithms developed at MIT to promote AI innovation throughout the country.

Apart from medical readiness and disaster relief, other potential research areas may comprise of data management, logistics, maintenance, cyber resiliency, and vehicle safety.

The AI Accelerator provides us with an opportunity to develop technologies that will be vectors for positive change in the world,” Rus stated. “This new project will integrate societal implications into research from the outset.”

MIT continues to pursue research that addresses current problems, while training researchers to think through the implications for tomorrow as research is translated to new technologies and new problems. The MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator allows MIT to demonstrate that concept when AI provides one of the tools for human decisions.

Krystyn Van Vliet, Associate Provost and Professor, Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Biological Engineering, MIT

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