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Boeing Powers Up BATS for the First Time, Skynet Rubbing Its Circuits

Military drones have been with us for a while, and we kind of got used to hearing about their exploits. Until now, all the successes and failures of these machines were determined by the actions of the human operators. But that will soon change.
BATS drone to fight from the sky alongside humans 6 photos
Boeing Airpower Teaming SystemBoeing Airpower Teaming SystemBoeing Airpower Teaming SystemBoeing Airpower Teaming SystemBoeing Airpower Teaming System
The development of AI systems will see the creation of independent drones probably during our lifetime, taking us one step closer to the fulfillment of prophecies made by so many sci-fi movies. And a taste of that future is the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

BATS, as we like to call it, has been previewed by Boeing’s Australian division at the beginning of 2019, during the Australian International Airshow. It is the result of the company’s largest investment in an UAV outside the United States, and should be a sight to behold in the skies above various battlefields.

Powered by an artificial intelligence that can independently fly either alone or in support of crewed aircraft, BATS can fulfill a variety of roles, from surveillance and reconnaissance to electronic warfare, and can rapidly switch between these roles. BATS can also be controlled by human operators if need be.

Since the presentation last year, Boeing moved fast with the development of the system. The fuselage of the drone was completed in February 2020, and at the end of last week Boeing announced two other major milestones: weight on wheels and aircraft power on.

"We're continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do," said in a statement Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. "The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress."

The aircraft company did not release a timeline for the project, but hopes are that the first test flight of the drone will take place by the end of this year.

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