USAF’s First Purpose-Built Supersonic Unmanned Aircraft to Advance High-Speed Flight

Exosonic's purpose-built supersonic UAV will be used in USAF fighter pilot training 6 photos
Photo: Exosonic
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The supersonic flight that’s silent enough to be officially approved is slowly becoming a reality. NASA and several other companies are working on future supersonic airliners, some of them even running on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Exosonic is focusing on a supersonic UAV concept.
Exosonic is working on the first purpose-built supersonic uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) for the U.S. Air Force (USAF). This UAV will basically be used as a mock enemy for fighter pilot training. According to the company, there’s an issue with obtaining fully-trained fighter pilots because of budget constraints and pilot shortage. Therefore, using an uncrewed, supersonic aircraft for live air training is seen as a cost-effective solution.

With a low boom and equipped with various sensors and payloads, the Exosonic UAV will act like the enemy in future training scenarios. This will allow USAF to conduct training at a fraction of the cost of current live air training systems. Since it’s an autonomous aircraft, it would also allow pilots to focus more on their role instead of operating as the mock enemy for the other pilots.

On the other hand, the company plans to invest the revenue generated by this UAV to develop supersonic technology even more and eventually come up with the final product – a commercial airliner meant to fly at supersonic speeds all over the world, with a muted sonic boom. This way, the UAV will act as a demonstrator for the company’s silent boom supersonic flight technologies and as an accelerator for future high-speed commercial flights.

Exosonic will be developing the supersonic UAV together with Air Combat Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, as part of a contract awarded by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s AFWERX.

Projects such as Exosonic’s UAV add to NASA’s efforts to demonstrate that technology has advanced enough for aviation authorities to be able to replace supersonic overland flight ban with sonic boom loudness restrictions.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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