Boeing rolls out the first “Loyal Wingman” drone for the Royal Australian Air Force during putting the RAAF high on the list of countries experimenting with autonomous aircraft.
“This a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defense innovation,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”
The RAAF plans to buy three drones, which Boeing calls the Airpower Teaming System, as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program.
Over a series of flight tests and demonstrations, the RAAF hopes to figure out how to best integrate drones with fighter jets and other combat aircraft, allowing the air force to keep pilots safe by putting lower cost unmanned assets at risk during a fight.
Australia’s Loyal Wingman is anything but a toy, though. It’s large enough so that it can accompany manned aircraft, and it’s meant to improve the RAAF’s power in defending its territory.
Unlike regular military drones, Boeing’s Loyal Wingman uses artificial intelligence (AI) to pilot the drone, instead of being controlled remotely. There is still some manual control, but this will be done through a minimal interface rather than a bulky conventional controller.