Successful First Flight of Skyborg ACS

The U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg autonomous core system (ACS) prototype made its first flight aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical UAV, the first step to integrating these aircraft into a complex operational environment By DA Staff / 01 Jun 2021
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The Skyborg leadership team conducted a first flight test of the Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical unmanned vehicle at Tyndall Air Force Base in April.

The flight lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes during which the ACS performed a series of foundational behaviors necessary to characterize safe system operation. 

The ACS 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.

The flight test was Milestone 1 of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) effort. 

Skyborg is one of three Air Force Vanguard programs to accelerate the fielding of advanced technologies. The Skyborg Program Executive Officer (PEO) is Air Force Brig. Gen. Dale White, who also serves as the PEO for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, while the Air Force Research Laboratory commander, Air Force Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, serves as the Skyborg Technology Executive Officer. The 96th Test Wing, under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, serves as the executing agent for the Skyborg test missions.

“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,” said White. “These initial flights kickoff the experimentation campaign that will continue to mature the ACS and build trust in the system.”

Milestone 1 was 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 and unmanned teaming between aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled unmanned aircraft.

Skyborg will provide the foundation on which the Air Force can build an airborne autonomous ‘best of breed’ system of systems that adapts, orients and decides at machine speed for a wide variety of increasingly complex mission sets.

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