AI Is Providing Pilots Another Set of Eyes in the Sky

November 10, 2023


airplane cockpit with two pilots


Pilots may soon have an extra set of eyes in the sky thanks to an emerging artificial intelligence-based technology. Air-Guardian is an AI copilot developed by researchers in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory that aims to enhance human precision for safer aviation. Rather than act solely as an emergency backup, it is designed to work as a proactive partner for human pilots, providing real-time assistance and support during critical moments in flight. 

One of the key features of Air-Guardian is its ability to track the pilot's eye movements using eye-tracking technology. This allows the AI system to understand where the pilot is focusing their attention and to provide relevant information and alerts accordingly. For example, if the pilot is looking at an instrument panel, Air-Guardian can provide a readout of the instrument data. Or, if the pilot is looking out the window at a potential hazard, Air-Guardian can provide an audible warning. 

While aviation-based AI support systems exist, most have acted primarily as an emergency warning system by monitoring critical data about the plane and flight. Air-Guardian differs by also monitoring the pilot, where they’re looking, and how much attention they’re paying to the information they’re looking at.  

Air-Guardian uses machine learning to analyze a variety of other data sources, including sensor readings, flight plans, and weather conditions. This data is used to generate a comprehensive understanding of the current situation and to identify potential risks. Based on this understanding, Air-Guardian can provide recommendations and suggestions to the pilot. Notably, Air-Guardian leverages incredibly complex liquid neural networks that adapt to new information rather than simply processing data that it was trained on. 


neural network


And while Air-Guardian could even take over control of the airplane if necessary, the researchers noted that the system is designed to complement pilots’ abilities and decision-making rather than replace them. 

The MIT research team pointed to several key benefits of Air-Guardian, including: 

  • Increased safety: By providing real-time assistance and support, Air-Guardian can help to reduce the risk of human error and improve overall flight safety. 
  • Reduced workload: By automating many of the tasks that are currently performed by pilots, Air-Guardian can reduce the pilot's workload and allow them to focus on more critical tasks. 
  • Improved situational awareness: By providing a comprehensive understanding of the current environment, Air-Guardian can help pilots to make better decisions and avoid potential hazards. 

In flight, pilots have to make hundreds of decisions based on complex information, often in a matter of seconds. Leveraging AI can alleviate this burden by processing this data and suggesting — or making — quick decisions. When MIT ran test flights that paired human pilots with Air-Guardian, various risk factors were reduced and more flights reached their destinations without incident than when the pilot acted alone. 

Air-Guardian is still in development, but it has the potential to revolutionize the aviation industry. By combining human intuition with machine precision, Air-Guardian can help to make flights safer, more efficient, and less stressful for both pilots and passengers. 


Help Your AI Career Take Off with a Degree from Capitol Tech 

Capitol Technology University’s programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science can help you to bring artificial intelligence to the skies and improve flight safety and efficiency. Capitol also offers a new Bachelor's degree program in Aviation Professional Pilot, for those who want to take to the skies themselves. For more information,  contact our Admissions team at