As part of the company’s commitment to develop advanced unmanned autonomy, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is using its jet-powered Avenger UAS to test and demonstrate new levels of autonomous control for unmanned aircraft.
Earlier this year, GA paired one of its company-owned Avengers with five hardware-in-the-loop synthetic Avengers to autonomously search and follow an artificially generated adversary. The live-virtual swarm utilized a simulated Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor network in addition to the government-furnished CODE autonomy engine to accomplish the mission.
For the demo, the Avenger flew over the high desert of southern California in January. The live Avenger was commanded into a search mission with the five simulated Avengers. Once the simulated adversary entered the designated search area, the team of Avengers would decide, utilizing an Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) algorithm, which aircraft would autonomously break from the search-loiter and perform complex behaviors to show closed loop, air-to-air tactics.
“The flight demonstrated GA-ASI’s unique ability to deploy autonomy using a blend of simulated threats, real-world sensors, and live aircraft. GA-ASI’s robust autonomy pipeline provided seamless digital environments, UAV digital twins and machine learning to validate unmanned aircraft closing complex kill chains. This framework allows the DoD to rapidly transition next-generation, operationally relevant air-to-air warfare technology from the lab to the battlespace,” said GA-ASI Senior Director of Advanced Programs, Michael Atwood.
Last year, GA-ASI conducted two other important autonomy demonstrations.
During one, the company used two Avengers, each equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod, to send long-range air threat data captured passively and fused by an advanced sensor algorithm to a Command Center. This flight test was the first-time UAS platforms and sensors were used to deliver fused sensor data. Avenger with Legion Pod demonstrates how collaborative autonomous platforms with advanced sensing can deliver persistent, shared air domain awareness.
During the flight, Legion Pod’s IRST21 infrared search and track system detected multiple fast-moving aircraft operating in the area. On-pod Lockheed Martin fusion software blended the sensor data from both pods in real time and the Avengers streamed it to the ground station.
In the other demo, GA successfully completed an airborne Manned-Unmanned Teaming demonstration, pairing a GA-owned Avenger with a modified King Air 200 as a surrogate for 4th- and 5th-generation tactical fighters. The flight demonstrated autonomous collaboration using command and control (C2) of the Avenger from a ruggedized tactical control tablet, integrated with Autonodyne’s RCU-1000 Advanced Human Machine Interface, to provide real-time situational awareness combined with complex behavior tasking. The airborne node utilized a GA-ASI-modified King Air 200, which allowed for rapid integration and test of the C2 hardware.
“GA-ASI continues to innovate by integrating state-of-the-art technology, providing combatant commanders with tested solutions for persistent, affordable air sensing with challenging target sets,” said Atwood. “This flight builds on the previous long-wave IR passive autonomous testing and continues to validate that persistent Group 5 UAS aircraft can perform complex Air Moving Target Indication (AMTI).”
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