Boeing Australia has completed an engine start on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft, an unmanned aircraft being developed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

This was carried out as part of ground testing and preparations for its maiden flight, expected later this year.

In April, Boeing Australia achieved two more development milestones with the first prototype of Loyal Wingman.

The drone turned on its aircraft power and stood on its wheels for the first time, further advancing the development programme.

The company achieved the two milestones nearly two months after structural assembly of the fuselage was completed.

Boeing Airpower Teaming System programme director Shane Arnott said: “This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team.

“We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”

Boeing is currently developing three prototypes as part of a concept demonstrator called the Loyal Wingman-Advanced Development Program in partnership with the RAAF.

The development of the unmanned aircraft involves 16 Australian industries, which are supporting key deliveries.

The programme will provide an overall understanding of the concept and help move toward the production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

Once complete, the 11.7m drone will have a range of around 2,000nm.

The aircraft is designed to use artificial intelligence to perform flights independently.