The Pentagon Is Building Robotic Wingmen to Fly Alongside Fighter Planes (excerpt)
(Source: Washington Post; posted June 14, 2017)
By Aaron Gregg
Under a Pentagon contract, Kratos is developing two unmanned combat drones that would accompany and assist future fighter jets, and multiply their effectiveness at comparatively very low cost. (Kratos image)
A Pentagon effort to incubate businesses in Silicon Valley may be bearing some of its first fruit, as a San Diego company rolls out a set of new drones it says could accompany human-piloted fighters into combat.

On Tuesday, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions officially announced two new classes of drones designed to function as robotic wingmen for fighter pilots. Development of the UTAP-22 Mako has been funded by the Defense Department’s Silicon Valley laboratory, dubbed DIUx.

Separately, the company showed off a larger, 30-foot-long drone backed by the Air Force called the XQ-222 Valkyrie, with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles. Kratos is promoting the pilotless planes at the Paris Air Show next week in preparation for a new round of testing.

Aviation experts say the speed and altitude capacities published by Kratos suggest the drones could fly in tandem with an F-16 or F-35 fighter. The company says it has already successfully flown the drones alongside manned aircraft and that it will soon embark on an advanced round of testing above California’s Mojave Desert employing a more sophisticated array of sensing technology to determine just how autonomous the drones can be.

In those tests, a pilot in an accompanying airplane is preparing to monitor the drones from a small Android tablet. For most of the flight, the drone will attempt to maneuver without the help of a human, relying on artificial intelligence technology and sensors to mimic the nearby plane’s movements.

That test scheduled for July is to be followed by a “demonstrated military exercise” sometime in the second half of this year, the company said. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Washington Post website.

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