Drones

Bigger Drones, Better AI: U.S. Air Force Installs Its Skyborg Robot Brain In A Pair Of Stealth Drones – Forbes

Summary

Two General Atomics MQ-20 Avengers fly over Edwards Air Force Base.

General Atomics photo

Two stealth drones soared over Edwards Air Force Base in California last week, offering some encouraging evidence that the U.S. Air Force’s new drone “brain” not only works—it works with a bunch of different drone types.

The Air Force hopes to install the Skyborg autonomy core system in a wide array of unmanned aerial vehicles. The idea is fo…….

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Two General Atomics MQ-20 Avengers fly over Edwards Air Force Base.

General Atomics photo

Two stealth drones soared over Edwards Air Force Base in California last week, offering some encouraging evidence that the U.S. Air Force’s new drone “brain” not only works—it works with a bunch of different drone types.

The Air Force hopes to install the Skyborg autonomy core system in a wide array of unmanned aerial vehicles. The idea is for the ACS to steer armed drones with minimal human control—even in the heat of battle. That way the drones can fly as robotic wingmen for manned fighters without demanding too much of the busy human pilots.

The Air Force’s Skyborg team flew two General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger stealth drones on the “multi-hour” Oct. 26 flight over California. One of the Avengers was the standard model of the subsonic, jet-powered stealth drone with a 66-foot wingspan. The other was an extended-range model with a longer fuselage and a 76-foot wing.

Both Avengers were company-owned airframes. The Air Force reportedly owns at least one MQ-20s, apparently for testing—while another, unspecified U.S. government agency owns another seven and has used them in one-off missions such as an alleged leaflet-drop in Syria.

The drones in the Skyborg test each clutched a Legion pod under their wing. The Lockheed Martin-made Legion is an infrared sensor that the company has optimized for stealthy, radar-free air-to-air engagements.

“The aircraft responded to navigational commands, stayed within specified geo-fences, and maintained flight envelopes,” the Air Force explained. “Both aircraft were monitored from a ground command-and-control station.”

The Avengers are the biggest drones to carry the Skyborg brain. The Air Force also has tested the control system aboard XQ-58 drones with 27-foot wings and at least one UTAP-22 with an 11-foot wing. Kratos builds both latter types.

The Air Force plans to expand the test effort and, in the near future, fly Skyborg-equipped wingman drones with manned fighters for the first time. The service hopes to field the drones to front-line squadrons in the next few years.

Russia and China also are developing their own wingman drones.

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Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/11/04/bigger-drones-better-ai-the-us-air-force-installs-its-skyborg-robot-brain-in-a-pair-of-stealth-drones/