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June 30, 2021

USAF’s Skyborg ACS flies onboard MQ-20 Avenger tactical UAV

The test flight comes just two months after the ACS was first demonstrated onboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical UAV.

The US Air Force (USAF) has carried out the flight test of a Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) on board a General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Skyborg is focused on showcasing an open, modular ACS that can autonomously aviate, navigate, and communicate, and thereby, integrate other advanced capabilities.

The two-hour thirty-minute flight test was conducted during the Orange Flag 21-2 Large Force Test Event at Edwards airforce base (AFB) in California.

It was part of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx) campaign line that aims to test and inform ACS development a sit furthers.

The test flight comes just two months after the ACS was first demonstrated onboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical UAV at Tyndall AFB in April.

By integrating the ACS on the MQ-20 Avenger UAV within two months after completing tests on the UTAP-22, the Skyborg team proved the modularity, portability, and scalability of the ACS on a completely different aircraft using the same software.

Skyborg Fighters and Advanced Aircraft programme executive officer brigadier general Dale White said: “This type of operational experimentation enables the airforce to raise the bar on new capabilities, made possible by emerging technologies and this flight is a key milestone in achieving that goal.”

After the MQ-20 safety pilot had achieved steady, the operator handed over control to the ACS to prove its ability in executing ‘basic flight autonomy behaviours’.

During the flight test, the ACS achieved basic aviation behaviours and responded to navigational commands.

Edwards AFB 412th Test Wing commander brigadier general Matthew Higher said: “The execution of this flight test is a great milestone for our closely integrated development and acquisition team.

“Safely executing this test in conjunction with Orange Flag both expands the envelope for autonomous vehicle flight testing and improves warfighter confidence working with autonomous wingmen.”

Orange Flag is the large force test event carried out three times a year by Air Force Test Center’s 412th Test Wing.

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