Nevada UAS Test Site and Microsoft test artificial intelligence in Microsoft’s UAS



The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) have teamed up with Microsoft's UAS research team to test Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Microsoft’s sailplane.

The sailplane being tested, which is 16.5 feet and weighs 12.5 pounds, relies on a battery to “run onboard computational equipment and controls,” including the rudder, and radios to communicate with the ground.

The UAS also has a motor, which allows a pilot to take over manual operation if and when necessary.

​During this set of tests though, the UAS demonstrated its ability to operate on its own, as it found and used thermals to travel without the help of the motor or a person.

“Innovative AI technology like what Microsoft tested with NIAS is clearly where the most dramatic global UAS Industry disruptions will occur,” says Dr. Chris Walach, Director of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site.

“Very evident to me, developing and testing AI, or machine learning technology, is going to have multiple applications that will significantly benefit the UAS Industry and the American way of life. This is one of the most exciting developments I have seen over the past several years in Nevada and globally.”

Preliminary tests were conducted at the Hawthorne Industrial Airport, where the Microsoft operation was based. Additional tests were conducted about six miles from the airport, at an area east of Walker Lake.

Nearly two dozen Nevada UAS Test Site Certification of Authorization (COA) flights were flown from August 7 to 11. Three different sail planes were flown, and they reached an altitude of approximately 1700 feet.