Boeing Australia has hit a major milestone with its Loyal Wingman drone, completing its first fuselage for its Advanced Development Program in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The drone is one of three prototypes being produced as a part of the program.
Recently, for the first time, the unmanned aircraft, which is still in an incomplete state, sat unsupported on its own landing gear and had its main electrical power system turned on.
The Chicago-headquartered planemaker announced the new milestone on Apr. 8, 2020. The company had only revealed that it had completed the bulk of the work on the drone’s fuselage on Feb. 10, 2020.
The development milestones for the unmanned aircraft come just weeks after completion of the first fuselage, allowing for rapid progress on systems installation and functional and integration testing from the aircraft’s own landing gear.
“We’re continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress.”
The new aircraft that developing under the Loyal Wingman program will complement and extend airborne missions through smart teaming with existing military aircraft.
Digital engineering has enabled Boeing to develop, simulate and test mission system behaviours that ultimately will increase customer capabilities – such as situational awareness and ISR. The team is working closely with the RAAF to refine the manned-unmanned teaming solution to address specific operational needs, and ensure manned pilots can trust and easily understand the unmanned systems flying with them.
Boeing hopes to sell the multi-role, unmanned aircraft, which is 38 feet long (11.6 meters) and has a 2,000 nautical mile (3,704 kilometer) range, to customers around the world, modifying it as requested, according to CNBC.com.
Its first flight is expected in 2020, with Boeing and the Australian government producing a concept demonstrator to pave the way for full production.