If you’ve been following the developments in this field then you are aware that Boeing Australia is working on something it calls Airpower Teaming System (BATS). One major part of BATS is the Loyal Wingman aircraft whose production is about to begin in Queensland; another are the “high-performance surrogate jets” we have here.
The Loyal Wingman is capable of autonomously fulfilling a variety of roles, from surveillance and reconnaissance to electronic warfare, alongside planes with pilots or by itself. Even if it is on the verge of production, some systems (they will also be used for other projects) still need testing, and this is where these jets come in.
Back in November, at a new Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, Australia, Boeing conducted autonomous teaming flights using five 3.4-meter (11-foot) aircraft. The test lasted for 10 days, with each of the planes been added incrementally to the team. We are not being told exactly how the flights went, other than the fact that “the aircraft reached speeds of 270 kilometers (167 miles) per hour.”
“The tests demonstrated our success in applying artificial intelligence algorithms to ‘teach’ the aircraft’s brain to understand what is required of it,” said in a statement Emily Hughes, director of Phantom Works International. “The data link capabilities enabled the aircraft to communicate with the other platforms so that they could collaborate to achieve a mission.”
“With the size, number and speed of aircraft used in the test, this is a very significant step for Boeing and industry in the progress of autonomous mission systems technology.”
So there you have it: not only will we have autonomous cars on the roads (not from Uber, though), but also autonomous fighter planes in the sky. A bright future awaits…