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USAF tests new autonomy core aboard MQ-20 Avenger

1st July 2021 - 14:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The test flight was designed to showcase the modularity, portability, and scalability of the Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS).

The US Air Force (USAF) has conducted a flight test of its Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) aboard a General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger UAV during Orange Flag 21-2 at Edwards AFB, California.

The two hours and thirty minutes flight test on June 24 aimed to demonstrate an open, modular ACS that can autonomously navigate and communicate and eventually integrate other advanced capabilities.

The test flight was part of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) campaign line of effort to test and inform ACS development as it matures.

In a statement, the USAF said the flight came two months after the ACS was first demonstrated onboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical unmanned vehicle at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

‘By integrating the ACS on the MQ-20 less than two months after completing tests on the UTAP-22, the Skyborg team proved the ACS's modularity, portability, and scalability by demonstrating the same capabilities on a completely different aircraft using the same software release,’ the statement said.

The service said that the ACS performed a ‘series of foundational behaviours necessary to characterise safe system operation during the flight.

Once the MQ-20 safety pilot had achieved level flight at altitude, the operator handed over control to the ACS.

The ACS was then able to achieve basic aviation behaviours and respond to navigational commands while reacting to geo-fences, adhering to aircraft flight envelopes, and demonstrating coordinated manoeuvring. It was monitored from a ground command and control station.

Future Skyborg experimentation events will explore direct manned-unmanned teaming between crewed aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled autonomous aircraft.

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