AI-Powered Boeing Loyal Wingman Drone Powers Up Its Engine, First Flight Coming

To be found in the world of science fiction alone until not long ago, artificial intelligence-powered weapons systems are becoming increasingly more common. There’s a long list of such tech being researched around the world, making some fear and others hope that a technological singularity is just around the corner.
Boeing Loyal Wingman 7 photos
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Most recently we learned how the U.S. Air Force is training with combat robot dogs, and we’ve seen over the past few years how the use of semi-autonomous drones can forever change the battlefield. None of them seem as promising as the Loyal Wingman.

This is how Boeing’s Australia subsidiary is calling a fighter plane-like drone that is meant to accompany combat aircraft over enemy territory. Part of a wider system of such technologies called Boeing Airpower Teaming System (BATS), the drone can fulfill a variety of roles, from surveillance and reconnaissance to electronic warfare, and can rapidly switch between these roles. It can be controlled by humans on the ground, but it has also been designed to do all that on its own as well.

BATS was first shown at the beginning of 2019 as the company’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the United States. It was this year though that the aircraft’s development got a boost in speed, and we’ve already had weight on wheels milestone in early 2020, the firing of the engine for the first time in April, and the delivery of the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Another engine power-up took place this week and, even if Boeing did not say exactly when it plans to make the first flight of the drone, all these developments point to the fact we’re not very far from that moment.

“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

“We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”

press release

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