U.S.A.F. Research Lab Marks First Flight of Skyborg Automomous Teaming Aircraft

  • Our Bureau
  • 10:23 AM, May 6, 2021
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U.S.A.F. Research Lab Marks First Flight of Skyborg Automomous Teaming Aircraft
Skyborg ACS launches aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical unmanned vehicle at Tyndall AFB, Florida on April 29. @U.S.A.F.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory conducted the first flight of the Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical unmanned vehicle at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

The ACS is the ‘brain’ of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate full-mission autonomy with low-cost, attritable unmanned air vehicle technology to enable manned-unmanned teaming.

In the two-hours and ten minute flight performed on April 29, termed Milestone 1 of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) campaign, the ACS performed a series of foundational behaviors necessary to characterize safe system operation. The ACS demonstrated basic aviation capabilities and responded to navigational commands, while reacting to geo-fences, adhering to aircraft flight envelopes, and demonstrating coordinated maneuvering. It was monitored from both airborne and ground command and control stations.

The Skyborg Vanguard team is a unique relationship that pairs Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft as the Skyborg PEO, and Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory as the Skyborg Technology Executive Officer (TEO). The 96th Test Wing, under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, serves as the executing agent for these test missions.

U.S.A.F. Research Lab Marks First Flight of Skyborg Automomous Teaming Aircraft

Milestone 1 is the first step in testing the ACS and begins a sequence of experimentation events planned over the next several months.

The 96th Test Wing is well-positioned to integrate and test emerging technologies like autonomy on various platforms (aircraft and weapons) and has provided critical infrastructure support and test expertise to Skyborg. Milestone 1 was the first time an active autonomy capability was demonstrated on an Air Force test range, and is a first step to integrating these aircraft into a complex operational environment.

Follow on events will demonstrate direct manned-unmanned teaming between manned aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled unmanned aircraft.

The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate full-mission autonomy with low-cost, attritable unmanned air vehicle technology to enable manned-unmanned teaming. Skyborg will provide the foundation on which the Air Force can build an airborne autonomous ‘best of breed’ system of systems that adapts, orients, and decides at machine speed for a wide variety of increasingly complex mission sets.

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