Skyborg combat drone's "brain" flies for the first time
The US Air Force has flight tested the Skyborg combat drone's Autonomy Core System (ACS) for the first time. The "brain" of the autonomous Skyborg was installed in a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical uncrewed vehicle at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and carried out a two-hour-and-10-minute flight.
Though the full Skyborg drone is still under development by BAE Systems, the ACS that will control it is far enough along for field testing. The April 29, 2021, flight of the ACS by the 96th Test Wing marks Milestone 1 of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) program to produce a military drone that is advanced enough to work with conventional aircraft, but cheap enough to be expendable if necessary.
During the test, the ACS was able to carry out basic flight functions and respond to navigation commands as it negotiated with geo-fences. It was also able to operate within aircraft flight envelopes and handle coordinated maneuvering while being monitored by airborne and ground stations. Later tests will focus on direct crewed and uncrewed teaming with multiple aircraft and ACS-controlled drones.
The Skyborg Vanguard program is tasked with producing a low-cost vehicle with full-mission autonomy that can also be networked for manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T). Skyborg is designed to be able to automatically adapt to changing mission circumstances, and its sensors and other payloads will carry out reconnaissance for fighter planes while offering extra protection.
"We’re extremely excited for the successful flight of an early version of the ’brain‘ of the Skyborg system," says Brigadier General Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft. "It is the first step in a marathon of progressive growth for Skyborg technology. These initial flights kick off the experimentation campaign that will continue to mature the ACS and build trust in the system."
Source: US Air Force