UAV Autonomy System Tested on Kratos Tactical UAS

By Mike Ball / 07 May 2021
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Skyborg UAV Autonomy System

A UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) autonomy core system (ACS) developed under the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg Vanguard program has been successfully tested aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical unmanned aircraft at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The test, which formed Milestone 1 of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) campaign, lasted for two hours and ten minutes.

The Skyborg Vanguard program aims to integrate full-mission autonomy with low-cost, attritable UAV technology to enable manned-unmanned teaming. The Skyborg Vanguard team 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.

During this test flight, the ACS performed a series of foundational behaviors necessary to characterize safe system operation. The system 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.

Milestone 1 marked 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.

Brig. Gen. Dale White commented: “We’re extremely excited for the successful flight of an early version of the ’brain‘ of the Skyborg system. It is the first step in a marathon of progressive growth for Skyborg technology. These initial flights kickoff the experimentation campaign that will continue to mature the ACS and build trust in the system.”

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle said: “Through this operational experimentation campaign, AFRL is leaning forward to get early engagement with the warfighter to deliver a suite of full-mission autonomy on a relevant timeline. AFRL is proud to be developing this force multiplier for the U.S. Air Force with our partners at PEO Fighters and Advanced Aircraft and the 96th Test Wing.”

Brig. Gen. Scott Cain stated: “As we have throughout our history, the Test enterprise is adapting our people and capabilities to support this rapidly maturing technology, and the execution of this flight test is a great milestone for our closely integrated development and acquisition team. Safely executing this test and providing the knowledge needed to advance the technology is at the heart of what we do. And as always, we’re highly motivated to help bring war-winning technology to the next fight.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact