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US industry continues efforts to enhance airborne autonomy

13th August 2021 - 13:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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MQ-20 Avenger UAV. (Photo: General Atomics)

A demonstration last month in the US explored steps towards more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft.

General Atomics announced on 11 August that an Avenger UAS, equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod containing an IRST21 search and track system, autonomously tracked and followed a target aircraft in a July 2021 industry-funded demonstration.

Chris Pehrson, GA-ASI VP of special programmes, said: ‘The success of this Avenger/Legion Pod demonstration represents an important step toward more sophisticated autonomous missions for unmanned aircraft and MUM-T [manned-unmanned teaming] in a complex battlespace.’

Integrating Legion Pod software into the Avenger Mission Management System took less than three months and was enabled through Open Mission System standards.

During the flight, Legion Pod with IRST21 detected multiple fast-moving aircraft operating in the area and fed target tracking information to the autonomy engine aboard Avenger autonomy engine, which prioritised the targets for engagement. 

‘This flight demonstrates a critical sensor capability that enables unmanned combat air vehicles like the Avenger to operate autonomously in Joint All-Domain Operations,” said Dave Belvin, VP of Sensors and Global Sustainment at Lockheed Martin.

He added: ‘We designed Legion Pod to passively detect and track targets for tactical fighter pilots in radar-denied environments. This capability provides the data necessary to enable unmanned vehicles to track and engage hostile airborne targets without human intervention.’

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