Any falcon or hawk knows how to find warm updrafts in the air and soar between them without wasting energy. What the millennial evolution gave the birds, Microsoft engineers want to repeat at an accelerated pace, creating for this a special version of the glider with artificial intelligence.
The essence of the development is extremely simple - to train the AI using sensors to analyze the behavior of the wind in order to find areas with warm rising air and efficiently move between them. In other words, stay in the air for as long as possible without using the engine. Ideally, forever, until the sheathing material wears out.
The goal of the developers is to teach the car to stay in a given square for months on end. In doing so, it will be able to perform useful functions of a radio signal repeater to increase the coverage area and provide access to the wireless Internet. The glider can draw energy for the equipment from solar panels - even if the robot is only effective in the summer season, this project will be commercially viable.
The technical problem is that modern AIs are adapted to complex systems with finite sets of rules, such as playing chess, go, or Mortal Combat. Will a computer be able to distinguish the fumes from a lake heated by the sun from the smoke of a conflagration, where it should definitely not fly? The answer must be obtained during field experiments in the Nevada desert, which recently started 200 km from the city of Reno.
Earlier, Facebook, like Microsoft later, announced the creation of a network of high-speed Internet access in remote, uninhabited corners of the United States. It is for these purposes that the company needs an autonomous repeater in the Earth's atmosphere.