Boeing recently completed flight tests with five high-performance surrogate jets operating autonomously in a team at the new Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry.
Boeing’s advanced autonomy technology, including on-board command and control and data sharing capabilities, were tested using the 3.4-meter (11-foot) aircraft.
“The tests demonstrated our success in applying artificial intelligence algorithms to ‘teach’ the aircraft’s brain to understand what is required of it,” Emily Hughes, director of Boeing’s Phantom Works International, said. “The data link capabilities enabled the aircraft to communicate with the other platforms so that they could collaborate to achieve a mission.”
Testing lasted 10 days, with aircraft incrementally added until the five operated together. During testing, the aircraft reached speeds of 270 kilometres per hour.
“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,” Hughes said.
The activity was the final milestone delivered in partnership with the Queensland government as part of Boeing’s Advanced Queensland Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project. During the project, Boeing has worked with over 90 personnel from a number of SMEs including RFDesigns, Amber Technology, Premier Box, McDermott Aviation and Five Rings Aerospace.
Technology and capabilities proven under this program will form part of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System and future Boeing autonomous platforms.
The Cloncurry facility is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and includes a hangar, buildings for office space and monitoring equipment, range control systems, a surveillance radar and amenities.
QinetiQ was appointed to design and construct the facility, establish the flight test range and manage this foundation stage of the drone testing facility.